If around mid-September you started spotting some jet lagged, enchanted-looking and colourfully dressed students in BK, they were probably the ones from the M&A studio returning from Colombia, a literal life-changing experience for them. The goal of our trip was to get a thorough overview of the character and history of Bogotá while at the same time thinking of future directions relating to our individual projects; the outcomes of this investigation however extended way beyond that.
As a start, we were welcomed to the jaw-dropping facilities of the University of the Andes, where we had our first encounters with Colombian students. A few series of interesting presentations and conferences followed, focusing on the context but also the notion of ‘the Commons’, one of the studio’s points in question. We then closely collaborated with the local students in order to carry out a thorough research of a recently-conceived residential area near Bogotá’s city centre.
During the turbulent years of La Violencia in the late 40’s followed by the assassination of prominent politician Jorge Eliécer Gaitán, Bogotá’s downtown was deemed too dangerous for the city’s wealthy class, and thus a new residential enclave was established around the city’s suburbs, Teusaquillo. The investigation took place mostly in this neighbourhood under the themes
‘Shifting Agency’ and ‘Thinking Through Things’, which involved us interacting with a domestic object of our preference (choices were starkly different, ranging from pillows and combs to knives and ashtrays) and experiencing the area through them. This led to remarkable encounters with the inhabitants, pushing us out of our comfort zones and performing acts such as climbing trees, brushing plants and sleeping on benches - many locals would have interesting stories to tell about their day.
The results were documented and compiled into a three-minute video for each group. All videos were truly inspiring and entertaining to watch, but most importantly foresaw a strong beginning for the year to follow. Through this unprecedented project, Bogotá revealed to us its audacious, multicultural and flavoursome character. Aside from getting the chance to interact with the friendliest of nations, we were exposed to everyday practices and common people, the city’s essential cogs for its ceaseless functioning. And to top it off, collaborations with the UniAndes students were incredibly fruitful which also led to unique local experiences - both during the day and night.
My personal highlight of the trip as a studio? Leaving as strangers and coming back as family. Colombia was one of the most fascinating and stimulating places to explore but in the end, simply grabbing a michelada beer and being together meant the world for us. After two weeks of living in an apartment with 9 individuals, we experienced the ins and outs of co-existing and learned what it means for one to truly rely on another in times of carelessness, hard work, fun and even sickness.
To conclude, during the start of this studio we have already learnt that keeping an open heart and an open mind can take you to amazing places and extraordinary people. Let’s continue this unforgettable journey and welcome new adventures on the way!