We almost always observe the city from the height of the mountains, we see the main streets, we look for our neighborhoods and houses, we recognize some buildings such as the stadium or the airport, and in some cases we see the undulating lines of the ravines that descend towards the Bogotá river. The hills can be an observatory of the city. But will there be an observatory for the hills?
Yes there is! It is the Virgilio Barco library, located right next to the Simón Bolívar Park. This place is not only the building that houses the library, but the park that contains it was conceived next to the building. Imagine! It is almost as if its architects, Rogelio Salmona and María Elvira Madriñán, had the possibility of designing and building a city to scale. On the triangular lot that today occupies both the library and the park, an architectural complex was built that includes roads, bridges, tunnels, squares, forums and terraces, which are surrounded by canals, lakes, fountains and gardens. All surrounded by a track like a circuit where sports such as cycling or skating are practiced.
The Virgilio Barco is a monument on which we can walk. A monument dedicated to Bogotá’s landscape, which we can contemplate while we walk through the park, or when we go up to the terraces and bridges of the library. Before being built, the triangular lot had been a deposit of rubble, so many that thanks to them it is that the park has that small elevation that surrounds the library, and from where it is possible to admire the curves of its volume and the game of the bricks on its facade.
To enter the library, you must first go through the paths and places that make up the park. These trails invite us to walk without haste, to fix our gaze on their brick paving stone crossed by channels where the water runs. The place offers us contemplation, because we are not surrounded by the hustle and bustle of the city despite being in the middle of the city.
The park has two central sites or avenues: the Sculpture Square and the Ceremonial Mirror. The square houses a sculpture by the artist from Santander, Eduardo Ramírez Villamizar, entitled Homenaje Muisca, which seeks to evoke the motifs that adorned the textiles and Muisca ceramics through its metallic sheets formed by rhombuses and triangles. Viewed from below, the sculpture can also evoke the silhouette of our hills.
On the other hand, while right angles predominate in the sculpture square, in the Ceremonial Mirror we can almost slide through the curvature of space. El Espejo is the place where almost all the park's canals drain, where they are collected by a circular well with white walls that is wrapped in a circular space with white walls. The depth of the place awakens the echo of the waters that is led in space by the curvature of the walls.
In addition, the park has five water mirrors, which represent the lagoons of the savannah, which offer their water to the city. It also has about 1,100 mostly native trees, many of which have information plates with their names. Among these 90 species are Palmas de Cera, our national tree.
Just as the Muiscas had observatories throughout the savannah from where they observed the movements of the sun and the other stars in relation to the hills, we have the library, which is also an observatory. The building is embedded in a perforated land, surrounded by the earth slopes where the park is located. This makes the view of the city hidden, leaving before our eyes the sky, the hills, the stepped fountains that surround the library, and the multiple forms in the game of bricks. There we immerse ourselves in the ancestrality of the territory, where land, mountains and sky remind us why it was possible to inhabit this savannah, and they question us about how we inhabit it today.
The Virgilio offers us other ways of seeing and thinking about our city.