Metabolic Reveal

Metabolic reveal is a design project aimed at exploring the definition of risk as it is currently understood, to include the assessment of growth patterns and the speed of development. It introduces a new approach for the allocation of future public space by protecting specific areas from being developed through a strategy of using voids as place-holders for future civic programs.

As larger number of Colombia's population are displaced from the rural countryside, informal settlements on the urban fringe have developed at an incredible pace. In the context of the Aburra Valley, these settlements tend to develop in risky areas, far from basic utilities and necessary infrastructures. In addition, the specific patterns of growth, especially in the case of Manantiales, have led to a severe lack of communal spaces for social gathering and future ammenities.

— City growth during key violence periods | Colombia

— High slopes have exerted pressure for the city to grow along a spine

As the result of fast individual growth, informal settlements normally lack the capacity not only to build communal spaces that in time would provide for the social needs and services that their dense urbanization demands; but what is more problematic, to even leave open spaces in anticipation for this to happen. As a consequence, when the government arrives, it is almost always too late and costly to carved out space within the informal fabrics to provide for these shared spaces, as the process involves both demolition and displacement of its inhabitants.

— Land use and income — Relationships between topography and income

When looking at the income of Medellin, we can see that the way rich and poor settled in the city, remain the same today. However, even with similar topographical and ground conditions, only the lands inhabited by the poor are considered risky for its settlers.

— Changes in growth patterns between a settlement that grew in 50 years compared to one that infilled in 5

Today's speed of urbanization is recognizable in the growth pattern of Manantiales. When compared to Santo Domingo, we can see that the processes that took 50 years to appear in Santo Domingo, are already appearing in Manantilaes only 5 years after the land was first settled. This speed reduces the size of the foundational parcel and promotes the clustering around certain areas.

— Projected scenarios

As construction continues, the place-holding, productive spaces will transform to meet the changing construction demands of the area they serve. Once each zone fulfills the needs of the neighborhood, the area will be clear for other programs to develop and a new public space will be revealed.

The proposal explores three natural ways of mantaining these place-holding spaces during the building process of the informal settlement. the process begins with its largest scale, that preserves larger public plazas with large stock material. This material is later developed in the intermediate scale or productive zones where material for construction is processed to build homes. The smallest scale is a delineating element as an extension of the home to designate future infrastructure and prevent encroachment.

— Growth of spines — Void scales — Development cycle and stakeholders



This project was designed and developed with Joshua Eager for the Medellin Urban Design Studio at MIT. It was hosted by the Center of Advanced Urbanism over the spring 2015 semester.