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Bogota | Mapping Dwelling Practices

Bogotá Action Learning Alliance: Mapping popular resistance and dwelling practices in the slopes of Bogotá hills.

The Bogota mapping workshop, part of the ‘Action Learning Alliance’ of the research platform,The heuristics of mapping urban environmental change, took place on the 8th, 9th and 10th of November 2012. This event was formulated by the inhabitants of Triangulo Alto, Triangulo Bajo, and Manantial,located in San Cristobal Sur - Bogota, with the support of the FundacionErigaie, CIDER (Centro Interdisciplinario de Estudios sobre Desarrollo, Universidad de los Andes), and the DPU. The process leading to the workshop was coordinated by Tatiana Ome (DPU PhD candidate) in association with Adriana Allen, Rita Lambert and Alex Frediani. The workshop was strategically designed to tap into ongoing processes of resistance against eviction; one of which is the Ecobarrios (Eco-neighbourhoods) discourse, appropriated by communities living on the slopes. Through the adoption of this label, they seek to reframe their occupation as a potential strategy for the protection of the forest reserve uphill and put forward a form of dwelling on the hills that can mitigate and manage risk.

The three informal neighbourhoods were captured in maps, by several local government institutions, which paved the way for relocation. Hence mapping by the inhabitants was, in this instance, used to provide counter arguments against the official maps and at the same time as a way to open dialogue with the very institutions which produced those maps.

On the one hand, the ‘Plan de Ordenamiento Territorial’, a 10 year plan for the city, depicts the area as lying in a planned ecological corridor, a buffer zone against further urban sprawl which also seeks to safeguard the forested hills. On the other hand, maps produced by FOPAE (Fondo de Prevencion y Atencion de Emergencias), show the area as lying in a forest reserve as well as labelling it of unmitigable high risk.

Ironically, both maps avoid an adjacent patch of land, taken over by developers in 2007, which saw the excavation of the hills and the construction of several 6 storey high buildings. This war with maps has so far claimed the demolition of Corinto, a fourth neighbourhood which formed a linear cluster with the others three.


The mapping event addressed conflicts that had arisen both internally and externally. Internally, it sought to understand the territory and promote cohesion in an otherwise socially fragmented reality which saw the formation of three distinct neighbourhoods out of what formerly was known as one, Triangulo. Externally, it sought to contest the dominant representation of risk as homogeneous in the area.

With the help of a professional geologist, and local knowledge, the maps produced pursue a more differentiated physical risk categorization within the area. Moreover, they seek to capture local practices to mitigate and manage risk, as well as work in tune with the natural environment and local communities ways of dwelling the slopes.

The three day hands-on workshop kicked off with the identification of past, present and potential practices that make dwelling in the slopes possible. This was then followed by a session which spatialised these, locating them on satellite images of the area. These maps were further populated in the field, through a full day transect walk, whose function was also to stitch into one, the seemingly disparate TrianguloBajo, Alto and Manantial. The last day was devoted to defining strategies for risk reduction, social cohesion and collective action, as well as fostering dialogue with officials from FOPAE, present in the workshop.

Although everyone deemed this workshop to be a success much following up remains to be done in order to keep the dialogue ongoing between the community, the local government and the supporting academic institutions. For now, they have all voiced their commitment to the process. Left behind, is a live map conceived as an online platform which can continuously ­be updated by the inhabitants.

The workshop was financially supported by UCL Environment Institute, Fundacion Erigaie, Colciencias, Alcaldia of San Cristobal and the DPU. For more details about the workshop, please contact: Adriana Allen, Rita Lambert or Alex Frediani.