Learning from Bogotá: How Municipal Experts Transformed Public Space

Rachel Berney

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Berney, R. (1). Learning from Bogotá: How Municipal Experts Transformed Public Space. Journal of Urban Design, 15(4), 539–558. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13574809.2010.502344

This paper examines how the decentralization of state power and, advent of mayoral elections in Bogota ́, Colombia, enabled municipal government, with the help of a cadre of professional planners and designers, to transform the city socially and physically by reinventing civil society and public space. Three contiguous mayoral administrations used public space as a setting and tool to reinvent a culture of citizenship as well as to demonstrate competency on behalf of the mayors. The mayors’ strategy was largely successful as Bogota ́ has experienced a move from individualism to collective spirit, and citizens report improvements in civility, friendliness and quality of life. Much of the city’s success derives from the vision of the mayors and the important role urban planners and designers provide in implementing that vision. By examining Bogota ́’s transformation, it is possible to better understand how local politicians and planning and design administrators are key to that change.

Main finding
This case study finds that Colombia defines and codifies a progressive way of thinking about public space that prioritizes the role of public space in the everyday lives of people, and creates a mandate and framework for powerbrokers and experts to reinforce. Positive changes to public space require a strong vision, control over the (re)development process, public private partnerships, citizen participation in the planning and design process and institutional leverage to manage interdisciplinary efforts of city agencies and departments focused on public space.

Description of method used in the article
Uses Bogotá is a model of urban (re)development and, the modus operandi of that model is public space.

Policy implications

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