“The Miracle of Density”: The Politics of Urban Design and Densification in downtown Bogotá
Thursday, May 17, 2018 - 12:00pm
“The Miracle of Density”: The Politics of Urban Design and Densification in downtown Bogotá
My paper follows urban planners and designers in a critical analysis of the conflicts surrounding urban densification in Bogotá, Colombia. Since the middle of the 20th century, experts have called for the densification of Bogotá’s inner-city as a solution to a variety of problems ranging from security and economic stagnation to inclusion and diversity. In this manner, ‘urban density’­­­­––the disposition of bodies and matter in urban space––has emerged as one of the city’s most intractable planning problems. In the paper, I explore the politics of densification as a design practice, urban epistemology, and mode of urban intervention. In downtown Bogotá, planners have often juxtaposed ‘good densities’––typically middle-class, with certain land uses and distinct aesthetics––with ‘bad densities’––working-class, overcrowded, and informal. Densification policies, I show, have been accompanied by a politics of rarefaction––the thinning of certain populations and their socio-material environs––as well as by enduring practices of speculation. By tracking these techniques and the ways they aim to redesign and harness ‘urban densities’, I will suggest that densification is best understood as a set of strategic performances, as enactments of material force and efficacy, which occlude social conflicts over the remaking of the inner-city.
About the speaker:

Federico Pérez obtained his PhD in Social Anthropology from Harvard in 2014, and joined PSU in the University Honors College in 2015 as a sociocultural and urban anthropologist focusing on Latin America. His research interests include city planning and design, urban law and bureaucracy, the built environment, materiality, infrastructure and technology, and security. His current book project, Urbanism as Warfare: planning, (in)security, and the remaking of downtown Bogotá, explores the relationship between warfare, insecurity, and downtown renewal in Colombia’s capital city. He is also conducting research on urban engineering and the current boom of cable car technologies across urban peripheries in Latin America.

For those of you who are familiar with the two mayors Enrique Peñalosa  and Antanas Mockus and their roles in Bogota's urban development achievements, you might be excited to know that Federico worked in the mayor's office between 2001 and 2004. If not, I strongly recommend you to watch this one hour documentary: Cities on Speed: Bogota Change