- Bogotá is Colombia’s cultural powerhouse with a vibrant music scene that earned it the designation of UNESCO City of Music in 2012.
- Culture has become a vital component in building a functional city: central to creating a place that is equitable, democratic and united, able to deal respectfully with diversity and avoid violence.
- The TransMiCable project allows faster transit times across the city by cable car. There are nine creative spaces built around the supporting columns of the TransMiCable route, including libraries, museums, theatres and dance halls.
City data: Key facts
- Geographical area: 1,636 sq. km
- Total population: 8,181,047
- GDP (PPP) million: $72,600
Bogotá is one of the oldest cities in Latin America. Founded in 1538, it was a centre of Spanish power and culture on the continent. It is divided politically and administratively into 20 town halls, with an overall city population of eight million, and further three million in the surrounding areas. After decades of conflict in Colombia, Bogotá is now leading the way for the whole country, both as an inspirational case study in constructing democracy and preserving peace, and as a strategic centre for improving the national economy, particularly through services and finance.
Bogotá is the country’s cultural powerhouse. Its music scene is especially dynamic, giving Bogotá a unique and lively nightlife. These factors helped Bogotá earn the designation of City of Music from UNESCO’s Creative City Network in 2012. Public green spaces are a fundamental asset of the city, hosting a wide range of cultural activities, such as the Festivals in The Park, which are five huge openair musical events ranging from rock, hip hop and salsa, to jazz and opera. Other highlights include the biennial Ibero- American Theatre Festival, the world’s largest event of its type, which attracts two million people every two years.
For the past 20 years, the City has recognised that culture is an effective way to engineer wider social benefits, but it is only recently that this has become part of the long term citywide policy, ‘A Better Bogotá for All’. This manifests itself partly in major urban planning projects, including transportation projects. Bogotá is developing better links between the TransMiCable aerial cable car which connects the high mountainous area of Ciudad Bolívar, with Transmilenio, the city’s dedicated bus lane network. Cultural infrastructure is being added along the route, including a museum, two theatres and auditoriums, exhibition areas and places for vocational training in the arts. Over the last two years there has also been major transformation in the city centre as the Bronx area, previously most notable for drugs and crime, is regenerated into the first planned Creative Industries hub in the country. Public-private partnership is a crucial aspect in facilitating this regeneration scheme, and the concentration of creative industries is likely to draw in more talent and businesses through tax incentives and other benefits.
However, overall investment by the City in culture has centred less on developing prestigious anchor institutions and more on alternative cultural spaces for theatre, music and public events. This includes a programme where exhibition and collection items are displayed in public spaces as well as in galleries or museums. The City has promoted small publishing houses to bring unconventional literature to the world’s attention, alongside creating light touch infrastructure to encourage literacy, such as mini libraries at public transport hubs. Fundamental to this work is the concept of ‘Citizenship Culture’ – an approach which encourages those living in the city to come up with solutions that will improve their neighbourhoods. Citizen involvement in promoting literacy and increasing access to literature through ‘suitcases’ of library books provided to communities outside the city centre are examples of this. Another is Responsible Graffiti Practice, a participatory process to develop a cultural policy around graffiti. The policy recognises this marginalised artistic form and seeks to use it to increase participation in decision-making about public space. It has resulted in improved city streetscapes with vibrant artworks and the emergence of a new group of artists, renewing the cultural identity of the city in close collaboration with its citizens.
Bogotá’s investment in culture aims both to achieve improved outcomes in terms of city planning and better neighbourhoods, and to develop the idea of what it is to be a citizen of the city. In offering more opportunities for its citizens to obtain knowledge and access culture, it hopes to continue to build a peaceful and prosperous future.