“On the Night of their arrival, we all sit at the dining table after a dinner of soft amala and delicious efo riro…

Giant Baby Jesus y Padres (c)Fiyin Kolawole at Medellin 2016 Alumrado Navidad

It is true what World Economic Forum pointed out- that the future of work will be based on things relating to skill, knowledge and education. The question is- can the goals outlined by the UnitedNations get us to Utopia or are they mere pawns in the game of global power balance?

To avoid talking more than doing, the government in Colombia, despite allegations of corruption and misappropriation, usually strive to translate policy into action through events, projects and programs

4. Events, Projects and Programs: It’s that time of the year when my sisters travel hours from the North and South of the country to come West where my parents stay. On the Night of their arrival, we all sit at the dining table after a dinner of soft amala and delicious efo riro. We talk about the moments we shared together, the fools of our childhood, the fun of our innocence, and the thrill of growing older- aye farther apart. The next morning, we join hands together to pull the feathers of a very big hen as we prepare the long-awaited chicken soup and jollof rice. And that’s how you’ll know it’s Christmas in West Africa.

Alumbrados de Navidad ©Fiyin Kolawole. Dec. 2016. Medellin, Colombia.

Some thousand kilometres away in Medellin, the city has become famous for its light. It became a model for every other city in Colombia. People travel from all over the world to experience the Alumbrados de Navidad. This is a culture created some years ago wherein the city is set aglow with giant Christmas lights in parks, along rivers and in houses. Every year has a theme that tourist flood the city to see. The government strategically places merchant kiosks along the paths and the economy is strategically boosted.

Someone once told me- “when you tourists come, you come with your money and when you spend it, the value is actually more than the value of what was purchased if it was bought by a Colombian”

If our urban events, programs and projects are to be meaningful, they must have a thoughtful goal and a designed measurement/management system. Africa must move beyond programs for political campaigns, satisfying donors or gaining ally trust, our actions must be spot-on, surgical and military in execution.

5. Business, Sales and Purchase: Just like a hunter sets traps for his prey, the goal of events programs and project is ultimately economic development. For as many 21st century capitalist, I believe that social development is ultimately a trickle-down effect of strategic economic development. Thus events in Colombia are always executed in such a way that if they aren’t done in the market, the market is brought to them. Just as the saying goes- “if the mountain doesn’t go to Mohammed, Mohammed must go to the mountain”. If the market doesn’t come to the event, the event must go to the market!

If the market doesn’t come to the event, the event must go to the market!

6. Proximity, Intimacy and Information: we still live in an age called the information age. After a period driven by speed and efficiency, what seems to matter today is information, information filter and data strategy. Very recently in 2015 and 2016, we saw how information influenced decisions globally in an unprecedented manner and scale- from Brexit to the Colombian referendum and Official Team Trump. The fear now is that information is a tipping point- it could be the new Weapon of Mass Destruction or Wing of Mass Development. And the problem we seem to have today is, as Clay Shirky famously said, “not information overload, it’s filter failure.”

information is a tipping point- it could be the new Weapon of Mass Destruction or Wing of Mass Development

Urban Development will be effective and understood when we take the data available to us and use it to research development needs, explain development proposals, mine development opinions, discover awesome ideas, execute projects and tell the story of development success.

Salento and Finlandia, Quindio, Colombia. ©Fiyin Kolawole. Nov. 2016

This is exemplified in typical residential areas in Colombia- different households share a wall, your next neighbour isn’t a fence away- he is just in the next room. The colourful balconies almost touch each other across the streets as though they’re built such that the flowers on mine can cross the street to yours’ and share the joy of life together.

There you have it- Theme and Branding, Arts and Culture, Knowledge and Education, Programs and Projects, and of course Intimacy and Information are things we can use to radically change the way we envision cities and ultimately design them.


One thought on “6 Lessons from Urban Colombia 2

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