Juan David Grisales

MLA I AP, MDes ULE

Masters in Design Studies Thesis Prize

From Humboldt to Caldas: On Environmental Liberations by Means of Tropical Altitudinalization

Advised by Pablo Perez-Ramos

When we stand on earth and think of the world in latitudinal terms, we are minimal, yet this is the world we attempt to conquer and pretend to comprehend. When we stand at low altitudes in the tropics, in front of tropical glaciers, we can see the world – through Altitude – without the need to go out in space to synthesize an image of this planet.

This thesis proposes a deviation from reading the world in latitudinal terms, to see beyond North vis-à-vis South dichotomies, and to transcend binary norms that have largely defined and misinterpreted tropical environments. While many of these territories have achieved political independence, the colonial structures of power and imperial views remain, and they continue to govern us.

The work is developed through two interconnected components. First, a group of essays that examine and conceptualize a series of “Environmental Liberations” in the tropical Andes, which include liberations of ecologies, grounds, and publics, but most importantly, liberations of the mind, social constructions, and imposed norms that are constantly manifested in the built and non-built environment.

Second, these ideas are also narrated and abstractly projected through time and space to generate a “Tropical Journey,” as a timeline to disseminate history and a device to assess tropical diversity.

This historical trip and landscape narration are an invitation to read the earth’s short elevation, which only extends a few kilometers, and explores how altitude becomes “a Tropical Liberation” – a disassociation from misperceptions of “Tropical” as a homogeneous hot and humid climatic condition.

Cover page of a book with an image of palm trees on a steep hillside, with the title “From Humboldt to Caldas or On Environmental Liberations by Means of Tropical Altitudinalizaton by Juan-David Grisales”

Pages from a book showing a map of the equatorial latitudes on the left, and text on the right.

Pages from a book showing an artistic image of the side view of a mountain on the left, and text on the right.

Pages from a book showing an old map of profiles of the Andes mountains on the left, and text on the right.

Pages from a book showing a photograph of the side of a steep slope covered with palm trees on the left, and text on the right.

Pages from a book showing an aerial photograph of a house in a green tropical landscape on the left, and text on the right.

Pages from a book showing an aerial photograph of a hilly green cultivated landscape on the left, and text on the right.

Pages from a book showing a topographic map of a mountainous region on the left, and text on the right.

Pages from a book showing a graph with the elevation of a mountain slope on the left, and a series of landscape images on the right connected to the elevation with horizontal lines.

Pages from a book showing an elevation of a mountain landscape on the left, and text on the right.

Pages from a book showing an aerial photograph of a river winding through dense green tropical forest on the left, and text on the right.

Pages from a book showing two images of a person standing at the tops of different mountain peaks on the left, and text on the right.