The two buildings (Esso and Guadalupe) are in a Bogotá neighborhood known as Sagrado Corazón. The Esso building (currently known as the CAR building) was built to host the Esso Oil Company offices and has four façades and its base as a platform provides a relevant aspect compared to most of the buildings in the area which only have one, two, or three façades. Currently, it belongs to the Corporación Autónoma Regional de Cundinamarca (CAR), although these offices are now in a mall known as Centro Comercial Gran Estación.
On the other hand, the Guadalupe building is a bit simpler and built for housing the offices of Ecopetrol but now it belongs to the La Gran Colombia University, which used the building as classroom and offices, among other university purposes but it is now being used completely.
The urban renovation partial plan of the Office of the Planning Secretary of Bogotá is to demolish these buildings and build two 27 and 38-floor buildings. These plans are within what is known as the demolishing focus in architecture, which considers everything obsolete, lacking value and deficient.
The problem with this plan is considering more effective demolishing buildings to add office square meters to a sector with a great floating population, with free areas for offices available and minimum housing.
The research project carried out by Architect Duffay Gutiérrez Paz, Universidad Nacional de Colombia (UNal) in Bogotá, Housing M.Sc., says this project has other alternatives that should be considered, such as recycling, and using them as housing.
Although we have heard the word “recycling” for a while, it has always been linked to consumer products such as bottles or paper, among other daily use products. It is not common to recycle a building, but the essence is the same: use the same material to create new things.
In the case of buildings, they look for important things such as a supporting structure (rafters, columns or walls) that may be used to create new spaces to provide the use a different housing quality found the new projects, which are usually deficient in space and other options.
To carry this out they need to have aesthetic and artistic sensibility as well as towards the sector. When a building turns ordinary, it becomes invisible to our eyes. “It has happened to everybody that walks around Bogotá: When a building disappears, the new version is not friendly for anybody, then we begin to miss the former building,” said Gutiérrez.
We can’t say the only solution is recycling, and that no building can’t be demolished, it is about providing an extra life to avoid the disappearance of a building so it can have new spatial qualities to fix the user and the sector, as the case of both of the abovementioned buildings.
Said practices fall into a conservationist approach that considers what is existent as a beginning of a new proposal, providing value to every feature, discovering and valuing its existence and history.
Currently in Bogotá and in many cities of the country buildings are being underused, abandoned or changed used which are not the most convenient for the building, or the area in which they are located.
This research project, headed by UNal-Bogotá Professor Alberto Iván Correa, began by analyzing abandoned buildings in the city but which included spatial and urbanistic rich areas, and this is what they included the Esso and Guadalupe buildings.
With this analysis, they began to review if it was possible that housing would add anything to the sector, and the sector to the housing proposal, as it not about recycling per se but supplying a reason to the project. Although it is possible that these buildings are demolished for economic reasons, such as building a greater number or units to produce greater yield, this research project looks to set an analysis precedent demonstrating that it is possible and valuable to think on other alternatives, which among others, reduces the production of waste.
An example of this is the Calle del Sol, a gothic building with ample and very high spaces. The architect changed it and decided to use the style to build very comfortable and generous duplex apartments.
In quantitative terms, constructing a building can cost the same as performing a structural reinforcement. However, this is very relative, as to preserve it is necessary to carry out a previous study, thinking only on the potentialities, leaving the economic factor aside, as the economic yield is always prevalent over the welfare of the sectors to intervene and over the user.
At this point, we need public policies that support analyzing sectors before being intervened.
With this research project they demonstrated that these two buildings are important for the sector and that bringing housing to the sector, complements and enriches the current office uses. For instance, the free area of the Esso building, where there used to be a parking lot, can house new buildings to complement its use, as long as the language of the sector and the urban and architectural identity are respected.
Although currently there are several requests to the La Candelaria Corporation and other preservation entities of Bogotá to avoid the buildings from being demolished, seemingly the decision is imminent.
Although there are many ways to create housing, Gutiérrez proposes doing so by recycling and emphasizes the value and importance of “looking at what we have before creating something new.”
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