Wednesday, March 21, 2012

A Bridge Too High?

The Kiosko de la Luz in Independence Park. In the background, the platform being built over 26th St. blocks part of the Museum of Modern Art. 
It was meant to unite, but may separate instead.

The huge concrete structure being built over 26th St. between Independence Park and the Museum of Modern Art was supposed to carry out architect Rogelio Salmona's dream of restoring the park to its original extent. But instead of excavating the avenue to put the roof at ground level, someone decided to save money on the expensive project and build the platform several meters above the park level. 
26th St, being roofed over to connect
 the park and museum.

That converts what was supposed to be a bridge into something more like a wall. 

The project, part of the expansion of the TransMilenio express bus system, generated controversy from the start, both because of the cost and the trees felled in long-suffering Independence Park. The park, created in 1910 to commemorate Colombia's centennial, originally extended south to what is now the Modern Art Museum was contiguous on its western side with the el Parque Centenario. But the construction and widening of 26th St. and Seventh Ave. chopped off Parque de la Independencia's southern side and completely obliterated the Parque Centenario. 

Neighbors filed a lawsuit over the recent project because of tree felling. More controversy was generated by the project's delays, cost overruns and an scandal involving alleged kickbacks payed by the Nule construction company to Bogotá's then-mayor Samuel Moreno Rojas.

Pedestrians walk up a ramp to cross over 26th St. 
In the end, the roof over 26th St. will contribute to central Bogotá by adding public space and connecting the park to the museum and adjoining National Library. But, because of its height - some two meters above the park - it'll be much less than it could have been. How will visitors climb up onto the new platform? Stairs would exclude the handicapped, while a ramp would mean taking an even bigger bite out of Independence Park.

I can't help but think that the huge investment in this very imperfect project could have been much better spent by creating a larger green space somewhere else in the city.

The project, which also requires rebuilding Seventh Ave.'s bridge over 26th St., is supposed to take another four months.

The platform over 26th St. blocks the view of the Kisoko de la Luz. 

A deeper excavation of 26th St. would have permitted a ground-level platform above the street. 

The concrete Kiosko de la Luz is the only structure remaining from the fair celebrating Colombia's centennial. 
A bust in Independence Park, with the Planetarium in the background. 

Pedestrians cross over 26th St., with the Modern Art Museum and National Library in the background. 

Work replacing the bridge over 26th St. still has a ways to go. 

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

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