In downtown Medellín, a short 10-minute walk from the Alpujarra Metro Station, you’ll find an area of the city that has seen a dramatic urban transformation in the last decade.
The city center, once overrun with crime and prostitution, is now a bustling center of commerce, education, and beautiful public spaces; and at the epicenter is one company in particular that played a major role in the development of this accessible space and many more of Medellín’s innovative social projects, Empresas Públicas de Medellín (EPM).
EPM is a public utilities services company providing water, energy, gas, sanitation and telecommunications services throughout Colombia and in a handful of international locations; Edificio Inteligente is the company’s headquarters and administrative center, located here in Medellin’s now thriving downtown.
EPM, Medellín’s largest company, has earned itself national and global recognition for its continuing commitment to social welfare, community development projects, and environmental conservation.
A large portion of EPM’s annual profits (upwards of $450 million) are put toward building new schools, parks, public plazas and the metro, improving access and quality of life for all of Medellín’s citizens, especially those living in vulnerable, lower-income neighborhoods.
In fact, EPM paid for construction of Parque Arví, the ecological nature preserve perched on the mountaintop above the northeastern barrio of Santo Domingo.
EPM is also lauded for their continual research on alternative energy sources such as wind and micropower.
Additionally, this year the company plans to begin construction of a second waste water treatment plant in order to continue cleanup of the Medellín River, the Aburrá Valley’s most important water source.
Edificio Inteligente, located in an area known as Alpujarra II, adjacent to the Metropolitan Theater and Exposition and Convention Center, Plaza Mayor, has become a local and regional icon.
Its clean, modern and functional architectural design has served as a benchmark for creation of the engaging and visually rich spaces surrounding the building.
In the immediate area around Edificio Inteligente, the public is invited to enjoy fountains and wading pools on hot days, kick off their shoes in one of the “barefoot parks” (large sand pits) and feel connected to the earth, enjoy the use of public bicycles, eat at one of the many restaurants serving local and international cuisine, or learn about the services EPM provides at the Museo del Agua (Water Museum).
During the month of December, the building is decorated in festive lights and puts on an impressive show on the building’s western facade, projecting images onto the massive, cube-shaped auditorium.
Though the building is composed mainly of administrative offices and is not open to the general public, groups interested in learning more about EPM’s services are invited to participate in their “Open Doors Program,” which provides informative guided tours by appointment.
No guides were available when I visited but they should be restarting the program this February. Appointments can be made by contacting Paula Andrea Muñoz (Tel: +57-4 380-2867) or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Edificio Inteligente EPM is a major source of pride for Medellín, Antioquia, and all of Colombia.
Their socially conscious, community-minded programs are sure to continue improving life in Colombia for everyone and serve as inspiration for other cities around the world.
Photo: Edificio Inteligente EPM by David Lee