Bogotá as a Spatial Sign: A Semiotic Reading of Urban Centrality in Latin America
This project proposes and applies a research strategy to understand types of cities using the case study of Bogotá. This strategy combines a conceptual framework developed around the notion of ‘centrality’ and ‘urban semiotics’ as a method of qualitative enquiry in order to comprehend complex spatial arrangements as significant constituents of cultural geographies. In this sense, this study problematizes current tendencies such as spatial fragmentation and challenges the argument that contemporary urban ensembles in Latin America are either homogenized within globalization trends or illegible entities with no structural coherence. Bogotá is addressed as an instrumental case study to redraw generalizations developed from different methodological frameworks about the configuration process of spatial structures and their significance within the Latin American geography. Thus the study questions how urban centrality has evolved as an essential socio-cultural phenomenon and in this manner decodes the messages transmitted by main spatial arrangements. As a first step, the study discusses the construction of spatial meaning and its structural interpretation. In addition, the concept of centrality is examined in depth and an urban centrality typology is introduced to enable the analysis of spatial structures in socio-cultural terms. These contents are followed by the discussion of the existing approaches to the topic and their limitations. Subsequently, this research reconstructs the configuration of Bogotá’s spatial structure which is decoded in the last chapter. The study concludes that the highly fragmented and uneven condition of urban space in Latin America can be read. The case study of Bogotá substantiates that there is a code that paradoxically provides spatial cohesiveness within unstable socio-spatial hierarchies. Such a spatial code is deciphered through the reading of Bogotá’s spatial structure whose super-centre denotes ‘the sacralisation of authoritarianism’. This is a ‘structural meaning’ related to a specific or intrinsic logic of spatial concentration that is useful for the further discussion of socio-spatial patterns and the meanings of Latin American cities. The concluding remarks integrate the main arguments and outline lines of action in spatial planning processes.