“I should say: the house shelters day-dreaming, the house protects the dreamer, the house allows one to dream in peace.”
The inner life of houses reflects the inner life of people. These are refuges to the imagination, to the thoughts, memories and dreams of man. Thus, transforming the house into a miniature image of this world, a way to endure and give meaning to reality. Ultimately, the house protects inhabitants, not from the weather but from the moral inclemency, the feeling of disorientation in the world.
Beyond infrastructure and built form, the city is the collective space where all the ideas of man come together. “Like the lit windows of apartment buildings at night, each one represents a life taking place: separate, distant, unknown and yet familiar.” (Stead, 2017) The city becomes the reflection of the inhabitants.
Here, ten houses stand as archaeological objects pierced by time and memory. They write the history of the city of Bogotá as an anthropological space, constantly being transformed by social and cultural changes. And so, the story of a house becomes the story of a city.
1. La Casa del Florero / Late 16th to early 17th century
Named “The Flower Vase House” due to the events on the 20th of July 1810. The incident that broke out the Creole rebellion against the Spanish rule. The house stands on La Calle Real, the city’s main street, looking through a corner balcony, Bogota‘s central square.
Green doors, windows, and balustrades, white walls and a central patio make this house an example of colonial architecture. Built five centuries ago for one of the city’s founders and passed through different owners during this time. One of them was José González Llorente, the owner of the fabled flower vase. The house became both a symbol of oppression and liberation, not only for the city but for the entire country.
2. Villa Adelaida / Pablo de la Cruz / 1921
At the end of the 19th century, Bogota remained a small colonial town while experiencing intense population growth due to migrations from rural areas. As a result, new settlements emerged on the periphery seeking clean air, clean water and ample green spaces. These people opted to leave the past, the narrow streets, the bustling cafes and the old square with its religious festivities. They wanted to find a new way of living.
Hence, the emergence of a novel type of housing known as casa quintas. “Residences not only for the rich but, in general, for the more educated, the intellectual minorities with a more modern lifestyle, less tied to traditional habits and customs.” (Ijjasz, 2010) Villa Adelaida had forests, water currents, and luxurious ornamentation. It became the expression of a part of society yearning for progress and modernity, one in need of an identity.
3. La Merced / 1930 – 1940
The relocation to the North materialized in scattered pieces over the territory. It was imperative to develop a concrete urban plan. The Austrian architect Karl Brunner was the main propulsor of the city’s modernizing project during the 1930s. He envisaged a “single organism” city, composed of independent, self-defined but interconnected units.
Brunner projected La Merced as a suburban neighbourhood with casa quintas dressed as “English style” houses. The architect took Howard’s Garden City as an example. Boulevards, gardens and parks replaced the rigid colonial grid plan to adapt to Bogota’s topography.
4. Casa Bermúdez-Samper / Guillermo Bermúdez / 1952-1957
Modernity raised the question of the domestic in Bogotá. The house wanted to transcend its role as a symbol of an extravagant bourgeois society and turn inwards to the life of its inhabitants ⎯ a true machine d’habiter.
Much like Adolf Loos’ buildings, it is an introverted architecture as a means to construct a space of intimacy. The house rejects the street as the activities emerge around the back garden. “Bermúdez is able to make the house look, breathe and exist through the patio.” (O’Byrne Orozco, 2010)
5. Casa Calderón / Fernando Martinez Sanabria / 1963
Three isolated brick houses emerge from the sloping terrain. La Casa Calderon is located in the lowest part. The curved brick walls follow the topography upwards as the clay tile roof descends from its highest point. Meanwhile, the interior develops in a descending succession of articulated levels as the house adjusts to the terrain.
The dense mass turns inwards in a protective nature towards its interior. Besides the main entrance, the windows are the only perforations. They create a link with the site by framing views of the city in the savannah and the Andes Mountains. Indeed, the influences of Wright’s organic architecture are clear. Still, the architect embraces essential local aspects that turn it into the architecture of a place.
6. Residential Complex El Polo / Rogelio Salmona and Guillermo Bermudez / 1963
The extension of the city no longer meant the development of roads to connect new settlements with the centre. It meant the consolidation of peripheric sectors containing urban elements. Here, the subdivision of old estates gave rise to housing as residential complexes—an opportunity to build neighbourhoods for the working middle class.
El Polo broke the boundaries of the architecture of the time. Besides introducing an innovative housing typology, “this building proposed a controversial arrangement of volumes for time, moving away from orthogonal regularity and rigour of pure forms. It attained an expressive space with interesting perspectives and angles.” (Téllez, 2006) This project changed the face of housing in Bogotá by achieving both good quality and systematic forms.
7. Las Torres del Parque / Rogelio Salmona / 1970
During this time, the city’s housing projects promoted by state entities transferred to private corporation domains. Needless to say, these became immersed in the cost-effectiveness culture. The rising state market imposed gated residential complexes as a new form of living. These altered the urban fabric structures and deprived the city of its public space.
Rogelio Salmona frowned upon these developments. He firmly believed the city’s essence lay in its public place, not in its private space. Torres del Parque finds common ground between these two terms to bring back the “small neighbourhood” culture. The pavement, the market down the street, the park, the hidden bench, the neighbour, the sense of coexistence.
The project of the spiralling brick towers stands before the mountains and embraces the city through shifting perspectives. “Its surprising forms bring us closer to new daily discoveries of ourselves” (Arango, n.d.)
8. Ciudadela Colsubsidio / Germán Samper / 1986-2009
Sprawling urbanization resulted in the spread of low-income informal settlements. The only expansion possibilities were through the annexation of neighbouring municipalities in 1954. These territories became urbanized while the city’s remaining voids were filling.
Samper’s central idea for La Ciudadela – “the citadel” – was to devise a city within a city. The main goal was to create a new community model, where the urban space becomes an extension of the house as a place of refuge. A neighbourhood with diverse housing typologies that addresses all strata and economic possibilities. Fluid urban scales, plenty of facilities and intricate connections both internal and with the rest of the city.
9. Pasajes Residenciales / Santiago Pradilla and Sebastian Serna / 2018
The architectural project returns to the centre. Residential passages merge into the colonial neighbourhood Las Cruces on the once called La Calle Real. The city’s development produced both a physical and psychological rupture between the South and the North through time. Now, this street is the only significant link between the two poles. The project seeks to restore the historic centre and rescue the connection between both sides of the city.
The three low-cost residential buildings blend into the historical context and reclaim its disappearing typology ⎯ the passages. Modest scale, intersecting volumes, the composition of light and perspectives, and the creation of central, open spaces. Pradilla and Serna break away from mass-produced, low-income housing by applying smart and punctual interventions to the urban fabric.
10. Casa Desorientada / Lucas Oberlaender and Mateo Lopez
Or “Disoriented House” is a reflection between an artist and an architect. They examine the essence of detached architecture not rooted in a place ⎯ a house adrift. The sixteen square meters wooden structure’s sides close to the exterior, except for a small window that barely opens. The only significant connections with the site are vertical, the sky and water, which are constantly changing.
Oberlaender denies the local conception of architecture as a material result from the reading of a place. Hence, the concept of orientation changes. Instead of containing a geographical signification, it has to do with the ability to give meaning to space. Like a musician uses an instrument, the house acquires meaning through the actions of its inhabitants—architecture as an extension of their bodies. In Casa Desorientada, the essence of a house can travel, adapt and transform despite its position.
Stead, N., 2017. Dream homes: Architecture and popular imagination. [online] ArchitectureAU. Available at: <https://architectureau.com/articles/dream-homes-architecture-and-popular-imagination/> [Accessed 12 April 2021].
Ijjasz, I., 2010. Domestic space in Bogota throughout the 20th century: A manifestation of developing local identities. Dearq, (7), pp.18-35.
O’Byrne Orozco, M., 2010. The Bermudez-Samper house, 1952-1960. Dearq, (7), pp.66-81.
Téllez Castañeda, G., 2006. Rogelio Salmona. Bogotá: Fondo Editorial Escala.
Arango, S., n.d. Torres del Parque, en Bogotá: Rogelio Salmona. [online] banrepcultural.org. Available at: <https://www.banrepcultural.org/biblioteca-virtual/credencial-historia/numero-114/torres-del-parque-en-bogota-rogelio-salmona> [Accessed 12 April 2021].