Arq. Daniel Bermúdez Samper
Stan Van der Maas
Universidad de Los Andes
School of Economics Library
The project for the Economics Library included conservation of the original building, designed by the architect Alec Bright. This building, representative of a specific period in Colombian architecture, had become too small to accommodate the growing library of the Centro de Estudios sobre Desarrollo Económico (CEDE), founded in 1958 as part of the Economics Faculty of the Universidad de Los Andes.
This small-scale project is of particular interest in the context of Bermúdez’s work because it reveals, once again, a characteristic of his architecture that seeks to meld with and complement its surroundings, on the basis not of a conservationist or ‘museistic’ plan but, on the contrary, informed by the clear intention to endow existing buildings with new utensils that will allow them to continue serving their purpose in accordance with the needs of the moment. This is a delicate process in which the characteristics of the existing building must be respected and reconciled with their surroundings through the fulfilment of new spatial, structural and, in this case, environmental requirements to ensure its refurbishment and, by extension, its conservation. This is a major turning point in the context of that architecture of modernity that in its day became increasingly charged with contents that reacted against all manifestations of formal conservatism. Herein lies the origin of the well-known natural impossibility to create modern architecture integrated into historical contexts, as by nature it was required to be presented as a counterpoint to them. In contrast to this, Bermúdez’s stance is antagonistic and his work is revealed to be very effective when it comes to intervening in consolidated urban environments, such as the Universidad de los Andes campus, a situation that may be explained by his judicious application of technical, usage and site considerations when he draws up each of his projects.
In his endeavour to conserve the building, Bermúdez decided not to alter its exterior appearance and added a semi-interred circular volume to its north side to contain the new library. The library has open shelves, a mezzanine, and is illuminated from above. The ‘green roof’ successfully camouflages the intervention while melding with and complementing the existing volume.