Some of the most valued research projects in recent years have been dominated by questions related to the direct and indirect interconnections between architectural and urban scales. The challenges of globalization, climate change, and demographic realities have in part driven an ongoing shift from the late 20th century obsession with the building scale to an expansion of architectural thinking to the scale of cities, landscapes and regions. Similarly, architecture as a purely formal exercise has necessarily expanded to encompass social, political and economic questions manifesting as distinctly cultural forces shaped by, and generating new forms in, the built environment.
During the post-war period, the ideals and aspirations of early modern movements came to fruition in extensive public housing and urban renewal programs transforming significant portions of almost every city in North America. In the aftermath of the failures of these programs, efforts to employ design to improve the situations of underserved communities have been considered problematic, lost in the shadows cast by failed modernist social projects. One result is that the focus of quality design has inadvertently shifted back towards serving a wealthier private clientele. In the meantime, a very different set of conditions in Latin American cities has fostered a remarkable production of high quality design as one of the key points of entry for gaining ground in the interconnected struggles against social disparities, crime, and fear. The cities of Latin America from Curitiba, Brazil to Bogota, Colombia have become synonymous with cutting edge urban design and now serve as models for new paradigms in the design of cities around the world. Within this framing, the world-class architectural design emerging from Medellín, Colombia presents a remarkable demonstration of the powerful role that good design can play in opening up previously unimagined opportunities for resolving even the most daunting challenges.