Our newest Online Viewing Room showcases two photography series by Venezuelan artist Alexander Apóstol. It delves into his perspective on Bogotá’s architectural history, vibrant color schemes, and the evolution of social projects. Revisiting these series, created nearly a decade ago, sheds light on the artist’s connection to the Colombian capital in his exploration of the changing visual identity of the city.
Apóstol en Bogota
Bogotá can be described as a hectic, fast, dangerous, fun and multicultural city. It is also filled with political history and can be a testimony of global architectural developments that marked the city’s own urban landscape. Through his lens, Apóstol unravels the multifaceted narratives interwoven within Bogotá’s urban landscape in the 2000s. The series, Av. Caracas, Bogotá, and Le Corbusier quemado en Bogotá, delve into the intricate relationship between the city, its architectural aspirations, and the pulsating currents of its social and political history.
First, at the heart of Bogotá, Avenida Caracas, one of the city’s most busy avenues, Apóstol proposes a reading in which the street acts as a living tableau, echoing the ambitious modernist visions of the 1950s. Its reconstruction and extension, steeped in the principles of the time, now echo with the cadence of contemporary reality—a reality shaped by a palpable military presence. Apóstol captures this transformation in this series of photographs taken in 2006, casting the soldiers stationed amidst the evolved, almost metamorphic buildings as symbolic custodians of Modernism’s enduring legacy in both Bogotá and Caracas, Venezuela. The tension and collaboration between the military and civil society, eternally entwined with the modernization project, unfold through Apóstol’s photographs.
On another note, delving into Bogotá’s history, the OVR presents Le Corbusier quemado en Bogotá. In the 1940s, the visionary Le Corbusier was beckoned to imagine a modern Bogotá. While his grand design remained unrealized, a subsequent urban endeavor, Centro Urbano Antonio Nariño, emerged under the guidance of Colombian architects. This citadel, marked by the contentious elimination of public spaces and the clustering of people in towering structures, faced the tempest of fate.
In the 1950s and 60s, as political dissent surged, fueled by the tumultuous periods of “El Bogotazo” and “La Violencia,” some of these structures bore witness to the flames of resistance. Apóstol’s lens captures the aftermath—the scorched landscapes, the lingering echoes of charred furniture within the apartments. This series becomes a visual narrative, unraveling the point where architectural utopia, political upheaval, and the tumult of state politics and drug trafficking intersect. What Le Corbusier could not dismantle for his utopian vision, Bogotá itself confronted in its history.
In Apóstol en Bogotá one can be immersed in these photographic tales which testify the capital’s architectural and political history, which has led to particular vivid and ruin-like scenes. Each photograph presented serves as a silent narrator, encapsulating the enigmatic spirit of Bogotá. The juxtaposition of modernist ideals against the backdrop of historical upheavals invites contemplation on the resilience of a chaotic city. Through these visual chronicles, Apóstol invites us to witness not just the structures of Bogotá but to engage with its essence—a city with a story etched in concrete and imprinted on the collective consciousness of its people.
Av. Caracas, Bogotá
Avenida Caracas in Bogotá was rebuilt and extended in the 1950s according to the principles of modern architecture in vogue at the time.
Nowadays, there is a strong military presence along its route. Caracas, capital city of Venezuela was developed in the same decade along the same modern parameters. The soldiers standing outside the anachronistic, mutated buildings of Bogotá become metaphors for the legacy of Modernism in Caracas, where tension and collaboration between the armed forces and civil society have been a constant element in the country’s modernisation project.
Av. Caracas, Bogotá (2006)
Le Corbusier quemado en Bogota
During the 1940s in Colombia, Le Corbusier was invited to design a project for a modern Bogota. Although he provided a comprehensive study of the city, the project was never acomplished as it comprised the demolition of a significant part of the city center. In turn, a citadel of 23 buildings, Centro Urbano Antonio Nariño, was developed by leading Colombian architects following questionable guidelines such as the elimination of public space and the maximum concentration of people in high buildings.
Some of the built apartments were given to university students coming from the provinces. Throughout the 1950s and the 60, and among political protests, some of these places were burned down in the violent period known as El Bogotazo and later as La Violencia.
Thirty years later, some burned landscapes inside the apartments are still intact, with shadows of old furniture displaying not only the violence of the fire, but also that of the continuing unrest in Colombia. What Le Corbusier was not allowed to demolish to rebuilt an utopian project, was destroyed by the violence of state-politics and drug-trafficking.
Le Corbusier quemado en Bogotá (2005)