Summer '15

Markets in the Tropics Summer School

Urban Scenarios for the Central Market

Visiting Workshop

  • July 6 - 17
  • Barranquilla, Colombia
  • Prof. Alfredo Brillembourg & Prof. Hubert Klumpner
    Marie Grob

    Dr. Michael Stauffacher, Transdisciplinarity Lab, D-USYS
    Alice Hertzog

    Javier Ortigosa, Dr. Menendez's Traffic Engineering research group, IVT, D-BAUG
    Prof. Fabian Amaya, Universidad del Norte
  • Collaborators: Universidad del Norte, Barranquilla, Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO), Financiera de Desarrollo Territorial (FINDETER), Municipality of Barranquilla


The cities of Latin America and the Caribbean face daunting challenges regarding rapid urban growth: social inequality, uneven distribution of resources, inadequate urban services, inefficient mobility systems, high levels of pollution, and limited institutional capacity.

In Colombia, the fourth largest city Barranquilla is growing at unprecedented rates, reaching 1.3 million inhabitants. Primary trading center in the Caribbean, the port city has drawn a lot of interests and is currently enrolled in the “Emergent and Sustainable Cities Initiative” of the Inter-American Development Bank. This program, also supported by the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affair (SECO), aims to create multidisciplinary framework of action to develop integrated solutions.

Using this groundwork, the Urban-Think Tank Chair and the Trans-disciplinary Lab of ETH organized a summer school program in Barranquilla, with the collaboration of the Municipality of Barranquilla and Universidad del Norte. During two consecutive summers, Colombian and Swiss teams were brought together to develop alternative urban scenarios for the city center of Barranquilla. Over the course of two weeks, engineers, designers, social and environmental scientists with local stakeholders combined their knowledge and cultural backgrounds to produce new aspirations for the city.

The “Markets in the Tropics” summer school provided a golden opportunity to disrupt traditional teaching models and propose alternative methodologies. Our plan was to create a space where participants could step outside of the classroom and engage with the messy, but thrilling, complexity of urban development. ETH Zurich and Uni Norte carefully developed the program in response to not only the challenges each institution observed in the urban sector, but also the shortcomings identified in university teaching.

Once in Barranquilla, participants had to make their way through a two-week urban obstacle course. We explored the city from the rooftops and the mighty river Magdalena, from the perspectives of inhabitants and shopkeepers, street cleaners and bus drivers. We interviewed institutional stakeholders, seeking to uncover the internal processes at work in the booming city of Barranquilla. Then, in interdisciplinary teams we produced alternative scenarios the Central Market. These scenarios were based on a selection of common indicators, which allowed stakeholders to compare and decide for themselves which pathway they believed to be most viable for the future of their city.


For more info, check our Markets in the Tropics blog