In the rich plains of the Casanare, region known as “Colombia’s oil corridor”, that extends for 44,490 square kilometres of land, was a source of wealth to finance the wars of the Colombian independence in the nineteenth century. In the dispute over this land, arose the liberal and communist groups such as guerrilla (FARC), paramilitaries and drug traffickers that later, in the 80s, created a complex armed conflict, where possessing “Haciendas” meant not only dominate territories but also accede to the social and economic power of the department. Many people in Casanare suffered from the violent deaths, enforced disappearances and population displacements at the hands of these illegal groups. Villanueva – Casanare a town with 24,000 inhabitants was the most affected for this armed conflict .
As mentioned in my previous article “The House of Memory: Architecture through Symbolism”, over the years, armed groups were demobilized and drug cartels were losing power, therefore violence in the regions declined. In 2006, as part of the strategic plan to offer a better quality in education and recreation in post-conflict regions, Villanueva was selected by the Government of Casanare and the Ministry of Culture as one of the first cities in Casanare to participate in the reparation for victims, providing cultural infrastructure to the town.
The public library in Villanueva – Casanare designed by four young university students (Miguel Torres, Germán Ramírez, Alejandro Piñol and Carlos Meza) who won a national competition to design the building, is an architectural triumph for sustainable design. With a tight schedule and budget, it was established a fairly complex design, where with brilliant ideas and high-quality solutions, the requirements demanded by the program were successfully met. Many strategies were developed to achieve maximum efficiency in the design and its execution, such as the use of materials that were in the area, such as typical woods and river stone, thus avoiding transportation costs. Also, like the materials, skilled labour came from the majority of the area where did not possess any technical skills in construction. Workshops were implemented to train the community, who performed the construction of the building with strict supervision . Alejandro Piñol states that the construction process caught the attention of the population including some former guerrillas, who had the opportunity to work as “reinserted” civilians. “This led us to facilitate constructive techniques, facilitating collaboration, reinventing the meaning of the social both in the outcome and in the process” . The building consists of two different compact volumes, the first volume that houses the public library on the first floor which includes theatre, children’s library, administrative offices, workspaces and bathrooms on the ground floor, while the second volume houses a plaza – public corridor.
This project was completed in May 2007 and now functions as a catalyst for social and cultural activities of the Town of Villanueva. The strategy behind this project was to seek, through libraries and library services, to promote a meeting space that encouraged dialogue, democracy, reconciliation, citizen participation and building trust between Villanueva’s community and former guerrillas (FARC) through cultural and reading content. Villanueva’s library can be used to allow communities to access of various institutional, educational and employment services that facilitate the transition to civilian life of FARC ex-combatants. What is impressive is that the library not only houses history, art and poetry books, but also among its officials are reinserted from the guerrillas who have learned to live in peace, surrounded by the tranquillity and wisdom that coexists between books.
- Archdaily, Villanueva’s Public Library / Meza + Piñol + Ramírez + Torres, 22 February, 2009, accessed April 13, 2017, http://www.archdaily.com/13853/villanueva%25e2%2580%2599s-public-library-meza-pinol-ramirez-torres
- Domus, A Library for Villanueva, 17 December, 2008, accessed April 13, 2017, http://www.domusweb.it/en/architecture/2008/12/17/a-library-for-villanueva.html
- Dezeen, Villanueva Public Library- Colombia, 13 April, 2008, accessed April 13, 2017, https://www.dezeen.com/2008/04/13/villanueva-public-library-colombia/
- Plataforma Arquitectura, Biblioteca Pública de Villanueva / Alejandro Piñol, Germán Ramírez, Miguel Torres, Carlos Meza, 15 February, 2011, accessed April 13, 2017, http://www.plataformaarquitectura.cl/cl/750088/biblioteca-publica-de-villanueva-alejandro-pinol-german-ramirez-miguel-torres-carlos-meza
1, 2, 3, 4, 5 & 6. Archdaily, Villanueva’s Public Library / Meza + Piñol + Ramírez + Torres, 22 February, 2009, accessed April 13, 2017, http://www.archdaily.com/13853/villanueva%25e2%2580%2599s-public-library-meza-pinol-ramirez-torres