Friday, December 7, 2012

The Long-Suffering Independence Park

Women walk past the vacant Universidades
TransMilenio station. 

When Independence Park was created in 1910 to commemorate the centennial of Colombia's revolution it was a marvel. Besides stretching from Bogotá's Eastern Hills west down across Ave. Septima to the Parque Centenario. The park also had an exotic collection of buildings evoking Egypt, modern industry, the fine arts and others.

"The surface of Mars, Versailles, the Crystal Palace, and European marvels before which a traveler becomes stupefied have been transported suddenly and magically to Bogotá," reported a Bogotá newspaper.

The unfinished bridge connecting Independence Park,
on the left, to the Museum of Modern Art, on the right.
But that was the park's high point. In the 1950s the 26th St. avenue to the airport was slashed thru the park, amputating its southern side. Later, other avenues were expanded, completely erasing the Parque Centenario. Crime also gave Independence park a bad reputation. And the marvelous buildings were removed, except for the 'Kiosk of Light,' now a tourist information office.

In recent years, the park has been restored and become a popular gathering spot. And, together with the project expanding TransMilenio to the airport, city planners decided to carry out a plan by architect Rogelio Salmona to expand and partially restore the park by roofing over 26th St., connecting Independence Park to the nearby Museum of Modern Art.

Las Torres del Parque stand behind the bullfighting stadium.
Salmona's plan was terribly expensive and elaborate, but will be good news for the park and its users. However, some neighbors objected to the project and to the associated cutting down of some trees. A group of residents of the nearby Torres del Parque, which rise behind the bullfighting stadium, filed a lawsuit which has stopped the work.

It's a real pity for long-suffering Independence Park. The avenue's bridging project appears to be terribly expensive and poorly designed - it forms more of a wall than a bridge - but it is already halfway finished and demolishing it is the worst possible option.

The half-finished bridge over 26th St. connects
Independence Park, on the right,
to the Museum of Modern Art, on the left. 
And today's El Tiempo adds another element, reporting that the stalled bridging project has also blocked the extension of the TransMilenio corridor east to University station. That's depriving thousands of university students and neighborhood residents of transport which their taxes have helped pay for.

The residents of the Torres del Parque - who have also filed a second lawsuit which prevent musical concerts in the bullfighting stadium - should face the fact that their delicate sensivities are damaging the quality of life for many thousands of other Bogotá residents. Or, if the residents won't see this, then the judges handling these absurd court cases should, and toss them out.

It's also worth observing that the bridge project is a good ways away from the Torres del Parque, and not even visible from most of the apartments. A bit ironically, like the avenue-bridging scheme, the Torres del Parque were designed by Rogelio Salmona.

View from the Museum of Modern Art of the half-finished 26th Street bridge.

Police stand in Independence Park beside the wall of the unfinished roof over Calle 26. 
By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

1 comment:

Miguel said...

Hi Carlito,

Thanks for your comment, which unfortunately landed in Spam and now seems to have disappeared.

However, to respond to the part I remember...Sure, it makes sense for the 'bridge' to be strong to allow for events (altho I've never seen any events in the park's small existing amphitheatre. But, I'd understood that Salmona's original idea was for the level of 26th St. to be deepened there, to permit the connection to the MOMA to be at park level, or near it.