views at a library
Take 1. Saturday, around noon. After heavy rain.
Character: Heka, Jack Russell, 2 years old
Heka gets out of the car and takes the first hill as a crazy rocket, not minding the wet grass streaking her belly. Immediately, she disappears out of sight. I climb the steep hill, moving the camera upwards, (next frame: overlooking part of the park) and find her provoking another dog to play. A couple, probably belonging to the other dog, walk on one of the lower grounds.
Take 2. 12:45, the pond.
Characters: 6 photography students.
In the circular concrete pit below, the pond. A class of photography students tries to find the right perspective to capture the long lines, the concrete cuts in the landscape, from the pond to the library in the distance. Another focuses on the reflection of the long bamboo grass in the water. I choose the higher edge and follow the line of the bending concrete wall. Serenity of the geometrical shapes broken by (or should I say enlivened by?) graffiti on all plain parts of concretes. The sounds of students talking amplified by the enclosing walls, carried over water to my spot, above.
Take 3. 13:00, a winding path
Characters: ice vendor, walkers
She appears as a red-and-white figure in the distance, approaches on the winding path, and then the white trolley and her body dressed in red become two separate objects. Closer, three people, European-looking, walking towards the camera, stroll in the grass, in the direction of the library, and stand still when hearing the sound of the ice-trolley bells. Hesitate. Then, they turn around, walk back to the path, we see their backs, moving to the lady with her white trolley. I follow then with the camera. They stop on the path at the trolley, talk to the women, buy an ice-cream each. Then turn again and continue their stroll. The lady walks on, clinging the bells of her trolley. Voices of children approaching.
Take 4. 13:30, the pond next to the library
Characters: Heka, library visitors.
Chasing her toy, Heka jumps around in the low water of the linear pond, shaking her skin when she get’s out, splashing drops around. A repeating sequence, she moves through the water, back and forth, tireless. Passing people stop to watch, laugh, walk on.
In the background, the closed brick wall of the library, rising high up from the ground as an ancient, pre-Colombian clay cylinder. On one side, the cylinder opens, between the wall and the water a small terrace, people drinking coffee, a glass door, people entering the library, a concrete bridge in the sky connecting the cylinder with another, lower volume, fan-shaped. Here, the same bricks, but in another pattern, opened, sounds of instruments and children’s singing voices come through.
Take 5. 14:00, on the roof
Characters: guard, children, a couple.
The roof of the circular volume is made of bricks, curving brick dikes lead the eye to the mountains. A path on the roof, along the curve. A girl, about 20 years old, black and white dotted dress, takes poses at the railing. Her boyfriend makes photographs, of her, with the sunlit mountain in the background. The sound of running feet. Slowly I move the camera from the landscape view back to the center of the circle, the middle of the roof. Children, chasing each other on the roof, to the steps of the open air theater. A guard comes after them, tells them to slow down. I move the lens, continue slowly, focusing again on the landscape.
Take 6. 15:00 The reading room.
I stand outside the reading room, before the curved glass wall. The roof-lights in the ceiling reflect in the curve, the shadows, lights and reflections play a game before my lens. Layers. The glass, the light, the people, reading, moving through space, slowly. The colors and layers fade, it all becomes one.
photo María Catalina Sandoval
Virgilio Barco Public Library, Bogotá, Colombia
Rogelio Salmona 1999-2001
The Virgilio Barco library is part of a series of big urban transformation projects that took place in Bogotá around the turn of the 21stcentury, in an attempt to overcome some of the serious socio-economical challenges that had haunted the South American city for decades. First, an ambitious infrastructural program was set up, the new transport system of Transmillenioprovided quick bus connections which made large parts of the city accessible also for the large part of the population who could not afford private transport. Second, a number of poor urban neighborhoods was given new impulse by providing parks and cultural program, such as cultural centers and libraries. Thirdly, attention was given to the ‘furnishing’ of public space. The library was one of the largest projects within the second line of initiatives. At a former wasteland between poor neighborhoods, a large park was given shape, with the library as physical and programmatic centrepiece.
The perspective for this text was inspired by Colombian documentary maker María Catalina Sandoval. I wrote the text after two subsequent visits to the building in October 2015 and April 2016 (and previous visits to other works of Salmona in Colombia). Further reference: Ricardo L. Castro, Rogelio Salmona, Bogotá: Villegas Editories 1998.
More images of the park and library below.