Architects Ivonne Valencia and Simon Hosie used the following guidelines to design the Colombia festival site:
- To map out the program’s thematic structure and provide a “natural” setting for participants to demonstrate how their cultures survive and thrive in dynamic relationship with nature
- To use the environmental characteristics of the National Mall to complement the design
- To select building materials that evoked both tradition and modernity
- To enhance and not compete with the participants and the meaning of the program
The architects worked closely with the curatorial and research teams as the ecosystem themes and the idea of a “journey” developed. They visited the National Mall to get a feel for the space and study how the elm trees could fit into the design.
Usually, the Festival builds a few significant structures; however, it uses commercial tents for most demonstrations and performances. To brand the site as distinctly Colombian, the architects chose to build all the demonstrations tents with guadua bamboo, a characteristic traditional building material currently used throughout the country. They used industrial steel fittings, thus combining the traditional with the contemporary. The canopies covering the guadua tents were intended to simulate big leaves, which created shadows that fused with the landscape on the Mall. They floated gracefully under the elms. Large sign panels at the entrance of each ecosystem introduced the specific themes and traditions within each area. Inside the guadua structures, other sign panels in conjunction with natural materials contextualized the participants’ demonstration spaces.