Architect Alberto Saldarriaga publishes a book about his memories of Bogotá – Art and Theater – Culture

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“This is and is not an autobiographical book,” writes Saldarriaga in the prologue. “In it, the personal experience is narrated through a succession of fragments, in the form of small snapshots, in which variations are elaborated on a single theme, that of inhabiting the world (…). This book is conceived as a series of snapshots in homage to a first camera – a Kodak Fiesta Brownie, the closest thing to an elementary, primary camera obscura. These snapshots are fragments of existence. This book is a fragment of fragments.

Laguna Libros shared with EL TIEMPO some texts and photographs of the book.

That first house still exists. Now it is an egg arepas restaurant and a bar called Modelo whose use is not entirely clear. The house is deteriorated, but it is still worthy. At night, when it is empty, the voices must revive, the memories must run through it. Mine? Others’? The houses house the souls of those who inhabited them and the specters of the deceased.

Facade of Saldarriaga’s childhood home. It is now a ‘disreputable’ restaurant and bar.

The National Park was far from the house and was visited from time to time. Going there was something special, because it was a kind of mythical space. It still looks big and out of the ordinary, it’s still a world unto itself. At that time it was unknown that the park was the preferred meeting place between employees and police officers, and that many children were generated there.

It was in Chapinero where the notion of neighborhood gained identity. Why? It is not known for sure. The proximity of the parish church, the movie theater, the corner store –with another Don José–, the whereabouts of the buses, all of this must have influenced the construction of that consciousness in which the everyday and the special They lived comfortably.

Neighborhood? Neighborhood? Perhaps both at the same time. A single circle whose center was the house. The city was beyond, around, everywhere.

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Antonio Roda tried to convert rigid and insecure students into competent draftsmen. In his courses, more than learning to draw, he was infected with the pleasure of drawing, the enjoyment of the stroke, the enjoyment of the moment in which the mind, the eye and the hand collude with simultaneous glances and gestures that, from time to time They leave a trail.

Learning architecture is, among other things, learning to represent the world in images, learning to draw it. The mind and the eye learn to see; the eye wants to capture what it sees and the mind builds schemes that ask to be translated on paper. In addition to technical drawing and the twists and turns of descriptive geometry, the eye and the hand acquire the skill that free drawing requires. The computer, on the other hand, does not allow those lines, those portraits, those sketches. Learning to draw is the start of a world takeover.

Seeing the city in a different way, discovering it, is perhaps the best thing about learning architecture? It is no longer a single city but many cities, and its images awaken the desire to get to know it more and more. One afternoon in a room, Carlos Martínez Jiménez drew on the board something that could be seen through the window: the hills of Bogotá. It was a simple graph, with a few lines, drawn with chalk on a black background. That same afternoon the city began to be understood (Drawing 3).

Book The Inhabited Places, by Alberto Saldarriaga

One afternoon in a room, Carlos Martínez Jiménez drew on the board something that could be seen through the window: the hills of Bogotá.

The sea is a unique experience. It is all spaces and it is none. It is a line on the horizon that sometimes disappears in the hot mist. It is a blue or green surface populated with reflections. It is one and many colors at the same time, it is a whisper, a patter, a bellow. Is the sea the ultimate experience of life? Debussy says something about it.

The cities by the sea are special: they smell and taste like salt, they smell and taste like fish and shellfish, they have something blue in their subconscious. The cities of the tropics also add their flavors and colors and a special cadence that spreads throughout the body.

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Bogotá rests on the slopes of the eastern hills and these, in turn, serve as viewpoints to see how Bogotá relentlessly devours the greenery of the savannah. Some distant hills remind us that the plateau is not infinite, that it has a limit. The green color of nature seeps into the dense urban fabric and brightens it up. Apart from the hills there are no large patches of vegetation; the trees, scattered throughout the city, survive amidst the onslaught of pollution.

The light of Bogotá is special. On summer mornings the sky is diaphanous blue, transparent. In the afternoons the sky is filled with clouds, and the relentlessly bright sun sneaks through them and transforms the city into a “wise and magnificent game of volumes under the light”. Heaven itself is a spectacle. The clouds, swirling over the blue sky, are infected with light and form extraordinary baroque constructions that bring to mind Rembrandt and, why not, Turner.

Bogotá has a speech, a language, an accent. If one thinks of it as it speaks, then Bogotá has a way of thinking.

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