The first evidence alluding to Bogotá’s reinvention is beginning to emerge in the shape of the BD Bacatá skyscraper complex, expecting completion this year.
As part of the “decade long wake-up call to the world” as Sam Miller of Colombia International Real Estate describes it, over a dozen major new buildings and urban projects have been planned for the city center, over the next decade. Several will break height records in Colombia and throughout South America.
The BD Bacatá skyscraper complex, a collaboration between the Spanish offices of Alonso and Balguer and the Architects Oijnaga group, will swing open the floodgates to future construction and mega-buildings in coming decades.
BD Bacatá will also bring an end to the four-decade reign of the Torre Colpatria, replacing it as Colombia’s tallest building. According to BD Promoters, the complex will stand “as the new icon of the renewal of downtown Bogotá.”
For a city already possessing several iconic structures, including the Colpatria Tower, Salmona’s Park Towers and the white church crowning the Monserrate Plateau, BD Bacatá’s iconic significance will be the new face of the city’s renewal — at least until it is eclipsed by two newer skyscrapers scheduled for construction in the near future: Proyecto B and Entre Calles.
The complex, which started construction in 2012, is situated in the heart of Bogotá’s city center at Calle 19 and Carrera 5. The project consists of a horizontal base, elevated above the busy downtown streets, supporting two distinct towers ascending 56 and 67 stories high, to 240 meters (790 feet).
With the immediate functions of housing, hotels, shopping and parking, it also endeavors to energize and coalesce the surrounding urban environment of universities, financial and business centers into what the BD Promoters consider a “downtown strategically integrated with … quality of life and the place of determining trends.”
Being the first skyscraper constructed in nearly 30 years, BD Bacatá will exhibit the first signs of a more contemporary global trend in the Bogota’s skyline. The complex is anchored visually by a perpendicular between the common horizontal foundational base and the separate vertical bases of the two towers.
These towers, defined by large glass-block setbacks, will house the hotel and the residential sections, while the horizontal base will accommodate the commercial shopping mall.
The vertical “spines” of the two towers express an honest structural integrity as their load-bearing purpose supports the airy glass-block members protruding outward, as if they were feather-light glass boxes.
The familiar construction materials of concrete, steel and glass will connect with the surrounding buildings and the city’s overall vertical scheme, while the large glass volumetric block setbacks introduce a freshness and variety that is pleasing and fitting to the cityscape.
This new icon also symbolically sends a respectful nod to the city’s other venerable icon, Rogelio Salmona’s Torres del Parque. Each complex contains three distinct and different structures.
The three Park Towers are spread out across a sloping hill in a plaza fashion, whereas the three structures of BD Bacatá are condensed and connected into a single city block.
Also, together with the Ciudadela San Martín North Tower, they are the only prominent high-rise structures in the city whose buildings express setbacks. Not only will this draw these three different buildings into closer communication with each other, against a predominately rectangular skyline, they also create a common local vernacular through their similar design.
All three projects display this technique in a similar style, with the steps branching out linearly from a single vertical base as oppose to symmetrically pyramidal.
The major innovation behind BD Bacatá, however, is in the fact that this is the world’s first crowdfunded skyscraper.
“It is a simple but not easy idea,” stated the BD Promoters. “By dividing the skyscraper into thousands of identical parts called FiDis, the BD Bacata could be financed not by three tycoons, but by over 3000 ordinary Colombians.”
As people invest in the construction of the project, they become owners of a fraction of the property, and the profit they receive is in correlation to the operational success of the property.
“The biggest product in the world” became the skyscraper’s slogan as the Promoters went about this endeavor with a rigorous add campaign on billboards, radio and television.
To convince Colombia’s population to buy a portion of this complex the advertisements humorously portrayed those who had invested as anonymous, common citizens doing everyday things, such as getting a haircut or frequenting a café, as the people around them gasped and whispered as if observing a celebrity.
The catch-phrase became: “The first skyscraper built by famous common people.” And for the most part it worked. Through crowdfunding, $150 million of the $240 million was financed to jump-start the project.
This model of crowdfunding, operated by FiDi Global, has proven successful throughout Colombia in the past with smaller-scale projects. With the prevailing success so far with the world’s first crowdfunded skyscraper, the question now is whether this model could be extended for creating larger urban projects, or even entire cities.
As the BD Bacatá complex reaches her final stages of completion, and as the city of Bogotá enters her initial stages of a new reinvention, the immediate successful results of the world’s first crowdfunded skyscraper could set the tone for the subsequent phases of mega-building in Colombian and throughout the continent.
Bennett Tucker is a freelance writer on architecture, cities, art and music, within the context of European and Latin American Modernism. He contributes to the Latin American cultural publication Sounds and Colours.