Enrique Penalosa

By:Maria Luna Issue: Biennial of the Americas 2010 Section:The Americas Roundtables

A Vision of Social Spaces


Enrique Peñalosa, the former mayor of Bogotá, Colombia, transformed high crime areas into public spaces, rejuvenated plazas and created pedestrian sidewalks. He was awarded the Stockholm Challenge Award for instituting the city’s first “Car-Free Day,” which encouraged motorists not to use their car for one day and to use some form of public transportation instead. With over 6.4 million people and over 830,000 cars in Bogotá alone, on any given day, the transportation thoroughfares of the city are often clogged and pollution can be at alarming levels. Studies have shown that almost 70 percent of all car trips are shorter than three kilometers — so the government proposed alternative days of transportation to ease pollution and traffic. The Stockholm Award provided a network for collaboration to build a better world by promoting social and human development through equality – with transportation becoming the method for interaction between the city’s diverse populations.

Peñalosa is an accomplished statesman, who has invested in communities by establishing dynamic living environments. His work takes rhetoric to reality with projects that improve society and the environment. His strong pursuit of public space creation has not only alleviated pollution from urban sprawl, but has relieved tension within the population. He says, “An open space provides a relaxing escape from vigorous city demands. Higher income groups always have access to nature at beach houses, lake cabins, mountain chalets, on vacations – or in urban settings at golf courses or larger gardens. Parks allow the rest of society that contact as well.” "An open space provides a relaxing escape from vigorous city demands." - Enrique Peñalosa

The goal is for all socio-economic groups to interact with each other in a simplistic way – by walking down a pathway, bicycle riding, or having a picnic. Peñalosa believes, “Public space is for living, doing business, kissing, and playing. Its value can’t be measured with economics or mathematics; it must be felt with the soul. The importance of pedestrian public spaces cannot be measured, but most other important things in life cannot be measured either; friendship, beauty, love, and loyalty are examples. Parks and other pedestrian places are essential to a city’s happiness.”

Peñalosa speaks internationally about his approach to improving cities and its citizens by promoting public areas, improving public transportation, building sidewalks, bicycle paths, greenways and parks.

Enrique Peñalosa obtained a Bachelor’s degree from Duke University in Economics and History. He received his Masters and Doctorate degrees from the Institut International D’Administration Publique and the University of Paris in Management and Pubic Administration. He was Mayor of Bogotá from 1998 to 2001.