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North Point by Daniel Bonilla, DB Arquitectos, Bogotá Colombia

North Point is a spectacular demonstration of the firm’s principles, in its emphasis on craft, openness, and two materials — metal and glass. Photography by Sergio Gomez

Daniel Bonilla and his wife Marcella head an office that functions as a tight-knit team with a deep commitment to the traditions of architecture and place-making in the capital. He speaks admiringly of Rogelio Salmona’s finely crafted brick buildings and the contribution architects can make to society after a long period of eclipse. ‘Bogota was originally planned as a garden city with buildings set back from the street,’ he says. ‘Security fences are now destroying that relationship and encroaching on open space.’

DB Arquitectos are presently awaiting approval on Compensa, a competition-winning design for mixed-use complex in the north of the city. Half of the site has been kept open as a plaza with glass inserts that will illuminate an underground swimming pool and glow at night. The building accommodates health care and sports facilities. Openness is also the hallmark of a country house they designed with the Chilean architect Felipe Asai, where the mass is broken up into separate elements to reduce its impact on the landscape.

Some years earlier, Bonilla designed the private La Calera chapel for a rural community, a skeletal structure that is open to nature. That may have inspired the firm’s latest work, an entry hall for the North Point business complex. At first sight this seems an uncharacteristic work for DB: an 18-metre cube of aluminum louvers that serves as a foyer for a flanking office tower located on a busy commercial boulevard. In fact, it’s a spectacular demonstration of the firm’s principles, in its emphasis on craft, openness, and two materials — metal and glass.

The cube is set back behind a reflecting pool and is entered over a footbridge. The steel frame supports the louvers that are woven together as in a basket, a projecting hood, and a glass skin. The hollow-section louvres evolved out of an aluminium ruler that Bonilla found on the site, and the structure was mocked up in the office before the final drawings were done. Like a Donald Judd box, the structure is reductive yet full of subtleties—of proportion and surface, solid and void. The louvres block direct sun, but trap and amplify natural light, which is mirrored in the polished stone floor. As darkness falls, the enclosure becomes a beacon that doubles as a sign. Alternately permeable and reflective, the space welcomes visitors and establishes a sense of ceremony as a prelude to the security check for entering a generic office building.

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