Point of ViewCurator Mónica Barreneche on rethinking Colombian design.

Point of ViewCurator Mónica Barreneche on rethinking Colombian design.

Issue 52

, Directory

  • As Told To John Burns
  • Photo Juliana Gómez Quijano

I’m in the La Macarena neighborhood of Bogotá, having a coffee at Design House Colombia. The Parque de la Independencia is right out front and, from the balcony, you can see the Park Towers—a complex of iconic residential buildings by the renowned architect Rogelio Salmona.

       I started Design House Colombia with Estefanía Neme Hakim, who runs NC Diseño, the gallery where the exhibition takes place. There are 10 different Colombian design studios being shown at the moment; as curator of the exhibition, I assigned each of them a different room in the building and gave them free rein to transform it. It’s the first time an initiative like this has happened in Colombia. 

       To all of them, I said, “I want you to tell me a story from your life through design.” Some of the studios, such as Terreno, Pedro Bermúdez, Cruz de la Pava and a collaboration between Camila Buitrago Estudio and Granada Gárces Arquitectos have pushed boundaries: others, like Martín Mendoza, Jotaele, Refugio, Del Valle, Moblar and Basalto have played around with spatial ideas while staying true to their core. We’re in an era in which everything needs to be attention-grabbing and in which spaces generally appear more impressive in photos than in reality. I aimed for the opposite effect. Encouraging the designers to develop concepts that were driven by emotion means that a few of the spaces are difficult to photograph. But as a professional architectural photographer myself, that aspect of the brief was crucial to me: The point is that Design House Colombia needs to be experienced in-person instead.

       The gallery is known as Casa Azul, or the Blue House, by the locals. It was built in the 1930s, when Bogotá had been planned as a garden city by the academic and urban planner Karl Brunner, and back when everything was made by artisans. We were working on this project at the same time as the renovation of the building and one of the most rewarding parts has been restoring the ornate details, like the parquet floors, hammered glass and beautiful curved doors, to their former glory. We’ve renovated the facade too, painting it blue once again.


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