The Life-Sized City — Medellin, Colombia

Wham. Baptism by fire. Welcome to Comuna 8.

Choosing to shoot in Medellin as our first city in The Life-Sized City tv series was a bold choice. And on the first day of shooting we didn’t blink. Chucking ourselves into Comuna 8 - a gang-controlled neighbourhood in a favela on the mountainsides of the city.

Laura brought us there, after visiting locations in the city that symbolise the urban transformation. She introduced us to Hector, an urban hero if there ever was one.

He grew up in this favela. Most of his family and most of the men of his generation died in gang wars on these narrow, storied streets. Literally.

But Hector insists. Insists on staying in his 'hood. Insists on changing the paradigm.

He is well-respected in his neighbourhood. He had to get permission from the local gang for us to film there. But after the boss said ok, the favela opened up to us. We walked and learned and experienced and it was powerful and emotional.

Laura, the rich kid who quit Medellin because of the violence and who came back when urban renewal promised a better future met Hector ten years ago. She has helped create a better, life-sized city and helped Hector fight for a permanent place to teach breakdancing.

The day culminated with Hector taking us to his breakdance workshop where kids and youth dance their way to a better life. Inspired by him, a two-time national breakdance champion. Inspired by a man so humble, good and real in a neighbourhood so raw and bloodied by a history of violence.

I am in awe of the experience and feel so privileged to meet people like Laura and Hector. If this is any indication of what we'll experience in all the cities we shoot in for this series, I will be so grateful for being a part of it.

This is what I dared to hope for when I got the idea for this series. This is the urban inspiration I want to bring to the world. I will sleep well tonight. Ready to rise and meet more amazing people over the next five days.

Urban playmaker, designer, host of The Life-Sized City tv series about urbanism. Author of “Copenhagenize”. Impatient Idealist.

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