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HISTORIC CENTER OF COLÓN
Colón, originally a low-lying coral island, lies at the Caribbean entrance to the Panama Canal. The historic center of this city rests upon landfill constructed in stages over a period of 100 years beginning in 1850. The architecture is a unique blend of urban design traditions and architectural styles, including Gothic Revival, Neoclassical, Art Deco and early International Style, reflecting the city’s development and its cultural diversity. Colón’s plan, with its long, narrow blocks open to the trade winds, along with its parkways and distinctive colonnaded street facades, has proven to be a remarkably successful model of urban form, sensitive both to the challenging climatic conditions of the humid tropics and the possibilities of adaptive change. Today, the historic center of Colón is grappling with a number of challenges, as contemporary needs and changing economic conditions affect the port area and related business in the city center. The nearby Mount Hope Cemetery was included in the 2010 World Monuments Watch and is equally affected by changing commercial interests and demographics.
HOW WE HELPED
The historic center of Colón was included in the 2010 Watch to draw attention to the need to protect the historic resources of this city that was integral to the fortunes of many countries and companies, due to its proximity to the Panama Canal. Following inclusion on the Watch, the nominator of the site received funding from the U.S. Department of State's Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation for a survey and inventory of the cultural and architectural resources in the historic district.
At present, WMF is helping fund an eight-month project, developed jointly by the group of nominators and the project coordinator-the architectural and urban planning firm URBIO S.A. The project will combine three components: pilot urban design concept plans for the restoration and programmatic use and rehabilitation of the buildings and public spaces; an educational documentary video on the Historic District and its current challenges, to be broadcast in local television; and an upcoming international conference on conservation and rehabilitation measures for the urban center.
In February 2013, a two-day event will gather international and local urban conservation experts, government representatives and community advocates to develop ideas and alternative measures for the conservation and sustainable management of the urban center. Round-table discussions will focus on the future vision of the Historic Center of Colon as an administrative and commercial hub, a dynamic and environmentally sustainable urban center with socioeconomic diversity and room for architectural and urban innovation. A publication of the discussions and proposals presented at the conference will follow the event.
WHY IT MATTERS
Established in 1850 by the New York-based Panama Railroad Company, the city of Colón is an important center for global trade and commerce in Latin America. It illustrates a significant stage in the history of world commerce and communications. The three program components, to be completed by the end of 2012, promote support for rehabilitation and conservation of the historic center at the grassroots, local, and national government levels.
The Historic Center of the City of Colon: A project for its conservation, revitalization and sustainable management
In recognition of its historic role in the development of modern international trade and transportation, as well as its cultural and environmental value, the Historic Center of Colon was declared a historic monument in 2002. Despite its protected status, the center continues to suffer the effect of more than 30 years of neglect and abuse. This short, Spanish-language documentary offers criteria for a democratic project of urban conservation and economic revitalization that begins with the dispelling of stereotypes and the valorization of Colon's exceptional cultural heritage.
El Centro Histórico de Colón fue declarado monumento histórico en 2002, en reconocimiento al importante papel que jugó en el desarrollo del comercio internacional moderno y el transporte, además de su valor cultural y ambiental. A pesar del nombramiento, el centro sigue sufriendo los efectos de más de 30 años de abandono y abuso. El siguiente cortometraje (en Espaňol) ofrece algunos criterios para el desarrollo de un proyecto democrático de conservación y revitalizacion económica, que solo se puede iniciar con la eliminación de los estereotipos y la valorización del patrimonio cultural excepcional de Colón.