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Medellín – a municipal
Cinderella story

When most of us hear ‘smart city,’ we don’t think of settlements established in the early 17th century.

But Medellín, founded in 1616, is now held as one of Latin America’s leading smart cities. The city has addressed serious issues of crime, social inequality, and safety through significant investment in smart city technology.

With the election of mayor Sergio Fajardo in 2004, an experimental project known as ‘social urbanism’ was born. The goal of this project was to use architecture to target the inequality and culture of violence in the city. Fajardo noted that:

"When you go to the poorest neighborhood and build the city’s most beautiful building, that gives a sense of dignity."

These neighborhoods were unplanned dwellings that stretched up the sides of the Andes mountains. To kick off the project, a detailed model of the city was required so that the communities most in need of help could be identified and targeted.

Through the intelligent application of BIM (Building Information Modeling) tools, the Empresa Desarrollo Urbano de Medellín (EDU, Medellín’s urban planning organization) gathered information from several GIS (geographic information system) databases. The team brought that information, along with orthographic photos, into InfraWorks to create a 3D map of the city.

This map was then used to plan public transport and infrastructure that could connect poorer communities to more economically successful areas and position impressive pieces of architecture designed to give citizens pride in their community.

Transport infrastructure like cable cars and escalators were modelled in Civil 3D, while Revit was used to build new housing concepts for the communities. This let the team evaluate basic construction and material requirements, providing early visibility into potential costs and helping keep designs aligned to budget. EDU estimates that the planning process took 45% less time, and that new housing will be 28% more efficient and constructible thanks to BIM tools within the AEC Collection.

Of course, such a radical plan for transformation required buy-in from the community. When the master plan was ready, they had created a 3D model representing the entire city, with an area of more than 40,000 square feet.

For more detailed reviews of proposed housing, EDU used Navisworks project review software to create 3D fly-throughs of the Revit design models. EDU also used Autodesk Rendering, a cloud-based service, to create photorealistic images of the proposed building and other changes. These renderings captured high-resolution views of what the proposals would look like when complete.

When the master plan was ready, they had created a 3D model representing the entire city, with an area of more than 40,000 square feet.

EDU shared these visualizations—3D maps, fly-throughs, and renderings—with the community and used them to gather input and comments at events. To maximize information availability, EDU posted project information that included QR codes so community members with smartphones could then scan the codes and easily access project visualizations. Doing so helped them to feel involved in – and positive about – the future of their city.

Smart cities are those which enable informed decisions. The story of Medellín’s turnaround is truly inspirational, and serves as a powerful example of what’s possible through meticulous planning and smart city information.

Explore other examples of how Autodesk is enabling smart city excellence.