South America is often depicted as a lush landscape full of diverse ecosystems. And once, Colombia was like that. But today, mining, deforestation, extensive cattle ranching and draining of the wetlands in favor of urban development have threatened the country’s ecosystems and devastated the natural landscape.
A project named El Tropicario seeks to raise awareness of these environmental problems and create a space where native plant life can be studied and preserved. The project seeks to conserve wax palms, Colombia’s national tree, among achieving other goals. The wax palms that are native to Colombia live for more than 100 years, and they are in danger of extinction.
El Tropicario is part of a huge botanical garden that serves as a center of education for environmental threats and as a space to preserve native plant life. The design includes floating wetland spaces, an environment that has all but disappeared on the Bogotá Savanna.
There are six collections in the botanical garden: humid forest, dry forest, useful plants, special collections, biodiversity and superpáramos. The botanical garden is designed with passive temperature control systems that don’t need mechanical ventilation. The glass used in the design is made up of different thicknesses and filters. Automated systems are integrated to help control the temperature.
Each structure is designed to capture rainwater and collect it in a large reservoir. This creates a closed cycle that provides irrigation for the plants.
The gardens’ support system uses concrete pillars driven deep into the ground. These pillars surround the perimeter and support the metal structure of the gardens. This creates a self-supporting, “structural basket” design where no columns or supports are needed inside. Without columns inside, the interior spaces can include more soil for deep seeding. The design prioritizes plant life and creates a space for plants to thrive.
Photography © Mauricio Carvajal