Experiencing the architectural highs and lows of South America – The Property Chronicle
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Experiencing the architectural highs and lows of South America

The Architect

Much as I believe in Samuel Johnson’s maxim, that a man bored of London is bored of life, I still find an escape from London invigorating. It offers clarity as well as new insights. Accordingly I recently escaped with a few friends for an ‘Archi-tour’ of Columbia and Chile.

Bogota is a magical city. Located in a salt lake plateau at a dehydrating 2600m. A city built around a lust for the mythology of El Dorado where the infamously violent Spanish traded salt for gold, pound for pound. The legacy of violence survived until very recently when, after many decades of kidnapping and murder as a fixture of everyday life, an unlikely truce was reached. A truce where the conservative and liberal politicians, the military, the students (always a lively group in South America) and the Communist and the Narco guerrillas negotiated with the US and it’s Drug Enforcement Agency in a deal of funding in return for guns and the extradition of key drug barons.

Now, with the high value activity of the drug industry business chain – and the associated extreme violence – moved to Northern Mexico (cocaine production remains still an important part of the rural economy) Bogota is a very different city.

The bus-based rapid transport system could be a good UK import. It is hugely busy and slices through the traffic jams that are familiar to residents of any metropolis. They complain that it is packed but that is the price of its success. The kit of parts bus stop pavilions and pedestrian bridges are the best looking I have seen anywhere, until I arrived in Santiago that is. And this simple infrastructure avoids the delay caused by the laying of tram tracks.  

We could learn much from the consistent use, in very different ways, of a locally quarried red clay. A constant that binds the architectures of the city together. This, along with the simple detailing and single glazing – appropriate to the temperate climate – suggests architectural coherence where there is none. And that is all for the urban good. The outstanding result is a red silhouette of encircling towers set against the green of the surrounding Jungle.






The Architect

About Simon Allford

Simon Allford

Simon Allford is a Director at Allford Hall Monaghan Morris. From AHMM’s base in London Simon leads a studio that works in the UK and internationally, engaging public and private clients in the exploration of a particular architecture’s potential to offer delight as well as utility. Simon works on a wide range of scales and typologies. Recent projects include Stratford residential master plan, The Angel, Tea and Yellow Buildings as well as Adelaide Wharf, the Saatchi Gallery and Chobham Academy. He is currently working on the new Google HQ at King’s Cross, The White Collar Factory at City Road, a new tower 240 Blackfriars, three mixed use projects on Regent Street for the Crown Estate, an academic building for the University of Amsterdam as well as large urban scale projects in London and America. Simon is Chairman of the Architecture Foundation, a trustee of the Architecture Association Foundation, a visiting professor at The Bartlett and GSD Harvard. He was recently Vice President for Education at the RIBA and a Chair of Design Review at CABE. Simon engages in the broader architectural discussion as a writer, critic, teacher, judge of competitions, frequent lecturer, examiner, advisor and commentator.

Articles by Simon Allford

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