Julio Mario Santo Domingo Cultural Center and Public Library

BOGOTA, COLOMBIA. Av. Cll. 170 No. 67-51
Daniel Bermúdez Samper, Architect.
In collaboration with: Evelyn Delgado, John Oscar Pinzón, Ricardo Schoonewolff, Rodrigo Dávila, Á
Bibloamigos, IDU, IDRD
Structural Engineer
Hernán Sandoval Arteaga y Cía. Ltda.
Soil survey
Luís Fernando Orozco, Engineer.
Water and sanitary installation
Álvaro Tapias, Engineer.
Budget and Programming
Payc Ltda.
Acoustic Project
Akustik’s (USA).
Lighting Design
Carmenza Henao Londoño, Architect.
Vertical traffic study
Rafael Beltrán, Engin
Landscape Design
Diana Wiesner, Architect.
"Megaobra al occidente". Periódico El Espectador – Junio de 2007.


The Julio Mario Santo Domingo Cultural Center and Public Library (named after one of Colombia’s foremost industrial and business leaders), along with the 6 Hectares (14.8 Acres) San Jose de Bavaria Recreational Park, located at the neighborhood of its namesake, are part of a large-scale development project that will become the new epicenter of cultural and recreational activities of the area, serving the Northwest sector of Suba, and the city as a whole.

Within the park, the proposed building maintains a setback of 40 meters (131 feet) from the main roadway, so as to preserve the existing landmark Eucalyptus trees. Distributed along this “green band”, we find open stationary and dynamic spaces destined to public use, provided with a lavish stair, sidewalk and landscaping design, that displays variable, and attractive textures and colors. A majestic view of Bogota’s Eastern Mountains (Cerros Orientales), can be enjoyed from the top of the generous access stairs, and also from the main square, as well as from the bridge leading to the interior spaces.

At the main access square, two cylinder-shaped concrete elements bring natural sunlight and fresh air to the cafeteria, buried underneath, and purposely separated from the main building. Below the cafeteria, we find the parking space (with a 320-vehicle capacity), as well as the utility rooms.

The Cultural Center, sponsored with donations from the Santo Domingo family, holds two main spaces with two distinctive activities, arranged to each side of an impressive lobby, which also captures both the northern scenery and sunlight. To the left, preceded by a coat-check counter, we find a “mega-library” (one of several branches that constitute Bogota’s “Bibliored” Public Library Network). To the right, preceded by the ticket booth, two impressive theaters emerge. One of them, is a space of experimental nature holding up to 400 seats, whereas the other is a flexible, multi-purpose room and opera hall with state-of-the-art acoustics, holding 1,300 seats.


This project involves, yet again, an extensive use of white concrete. This maintenance-free material with a rich tooled texture, which by now has become Daniel Bermudez’ signature staple is, however, not appropriate for use at performance spaces, due to its reflective, luminous surface. To counteract this effect, the two proposed theaters present a distinctive touch: The concrete mix used on interiors and exteriors has a red-colored additive that makes these stand out amidst the cultural complex. Standard (and less expensive) gray concrete is subtly used, however, visible through gaps on the on the wooden ceilings (manufactured from re-forested wood paneling) at the hallways.

Painstaking yet masterful formwork results in dramatic aesthetic effects and functionality. A case in point are the perforations left on the wall surfaces after the formwork has been removed, where fine glass test tubes have been inserted to delicately channel the sunlight.

 A well-balanced use of exposed materials throughout the project, and from beginning to end of the construction process, conveys a sense of uniformity across the structure. In fact, the highlight of the building’s aesthetic beauty is perhaps its structural components, massively sized to match the seismic nature of the region.

Adequate management of natural sunlight is essential, especially when it comes to the reading rooms. Due to deliberate gaps between walls and floor slabs, it is possible to lead sunlight directly to the corridors, and away from the reading areas. At the children’s reading room, a sculpture-like skylight provided with 45° panels, deflects the light, avoiding its direct incidence. As a complement to the interior reading space, the library offers an exterior “reading terrace”, where its surrounding walls frame up specific geographic landmarks, such as trees and mountains.

Inside the theaters, the technical and spatial solutions are nothing short of astonishing. Keeping up with the pace of a rich scenic tradition, the horseshoe-shaped auditorium