Program Details: Open to the public

Colombian Displaced Communities: Planning and Urban Design Seminar

This hands-on planning studio will collaborate directly with the community of Manantiales de Paz, helping them to prioritize projects and ideas to elaborate upon a community development plan. We will accomplish this through the use of photography, video, audio, and sketches during our visits to the community. We will work together to produce applied research document that can provide critical information about the site and its relationships with its larger territory. This will be used to create a collective body of work to inform and guide design explorations and community mapping. Following the research, we will develop a hypothesis about with wants, needs, and priorities for community development. We will consider the infrastructural intervention actions that should be taken to avoid hyper density that is currently predicted for the area. Finally, our proposals will be put into a book for publication to move from site design strategies into urban projects.

The Medellin Global Seminar is a 5 week abroad program in the city of Medellin, Colombia. It is a hands-on planning studio that collaborates directly with the community of Manantiales, helping them create a community development plan that they can use to engage in conversation with state officials. The class is divided into five modules as described below.

Pre travel: Engagement with Local Partners. Selection of five key issues to develop and explore during the abroad experience.

Week 1: Arrival & Context Examination/ Planning
Objectives: Expose students to principal actors and phenomena related to the project site. Understand the site context.

Week 2: First Engagement with Community, Mapping Processes
Objectives: Produce an applied research document containing critical information about the site and its relationships within a larger territory. Students will use this document to guide design explorations and develop mapping skills.

Week 3: Collect & Analyze Data
Objectives: Development of hypotheses about community needs and priorities for the development of projects.

Week 4: Planning Project Development
Objectives: Development of the site plan through understanding of community needs: What infrastructural interventions could be used? How should they be developed to re-direct encroachment and diminish future hyper-density? What needs to happen to catalyze this change?

Week 5: Document Preparation and Presentation to Community
Objectives: Refined proposals will be presented and put in book format for publication along with the rest of the course. Move from site design strategies into urban projects.

Post Travel: Review project performance, collect outcomes and evaluate program goals.

The area surrounding metropolitan Medellin is affected by high levels of informal, unplanned settlements that lack the mechanisms to stop encroachment and urban sprawl. These municipalities (eight in total) are now the recipients of hordes of new dwellers that arrive at the region in search for a safer and better economic future. Over the last ten years, these areas have seen the emergence of entire neighborhoods containing thousands of informal dwellers. Manantiales de Paz in the municipality of Bello is a perfect case study of this phenomenon; it is a six-year-old neighborhood where most development is the result of informal dwellers’ agency. Street network, water, sewer, and power are provided by informal entrepreneurs and the actions of the community board of Manantiales de Paz, as students will discover in our visit.

During our time in Medellin, students will learn through workshops, lecture, site visits, studio work, and hands on experience. The first week will be spent developing research skills through fieldwork, including photography, video, sound recording, and sketches of the Manantiales community. Additional information will be gathered from the community via observation and interviews. Students will work together to produce a narrative of key learning objectives in a PowerPoint. The following week will be spent developing skills to inform design through research. Students will understand the manifestations of informal forms and use drawings, diagrams, collages, cartography, and timelines to show these relationships. A collection of our research will be illustrated through multiple forms of media. The third week will be spent identifying community goals and their equivalent urban forms: understanding catalyst projects for the development of community goals is crucial to the success of planning these urban forms. Exploring project alternatives and identifying potential stakeholders comes next. After careful analysis of these subjects, students will create presentation boards to show their design intentions. The fourth week in Medellin will be spent acquiring and developing skills to design a physical intervention that will improve the community’s social/ecological performance. The final task will be the presentation of revised student work to the community. The overall goal of this trip is for students to understand the potential impact of our project. They will develop and refine their design skills, and understand and work with the members of a community in need.

This is a public program.


Outside Colorado

  • Medellin, Colombia

Program Partners

Supporting This Program

  • ENVD Program at UC Boulder
  • Manantiales de Paz Planning Council
  • Mobility Movilidad a nonprofit dedicated to helping storytellers cross borders with their stories, choreographing meaningful conversations with diverse audiences to create a more just, sustainable world.
  • Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Sede Medellin, Department of Architecture and Planning

Program Contact

Jota Samper
Assistant Professor

Program Categories


  • Climate Change
  • Community Planning
  • Community Resource
  • Community Volunteering
  • Diversity

Program Types:

  • Civic Engagement
  • Classroom Instruction
  • Community Development
  • Community Event
  • Field Trip
  • Publications
  • Service Learning Course
  • Summer Program - General Public
  • Volunteer Services
  • Workshop


  • Adult Learners
  • At-Risk Youth
  • Children & Youth (outside school)
  • Families
  • General Public
  • Indigenous Populations (International)
  • International
  • Minority Group(s)
  • Non-Profit Organization
  • Socio-Economic Disadvantaged
  • Urban Communities

We do our best to accurately represent CU Boulder’s outreach programs and services, but they are subject to change and may no longer be active in a community. Please contact the program directly for current information.