City of Eternal Spring

When Patricia Lopez thinks about the city where she’s from, the first word that comes to her mind is colorful. The second? Changing.

Tucked into a sloping valley in the blue-green ridges of the Andes, Medellín, Colombia, is not the city it was ten years ago—or even five. Chalk that up to the local government’s push to dismantle cartels in the early-to-mid-90s, an architectural renaissance in the early 2000s, or both, but one point is certain: this city is reinventing itself.

“Medellín has changed so much since I’ve been gone,” Patricia says. “Every time I’m there visiting, I discover new skyscrapers, hotels, bridges, highways, and museums. The city has become a mix of old and new, with ancient churches down the street from contemporary structures.”

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A senior interior designer and associate in Baskervill’s bustling hospitality studio, Patricia finds herself continually inspired by the unique hotels and hostels she discovers whenever she returns for a visit.

“The city is full of brilliant designers and architects. There is so much culture, passion, and growth; it’s very inspiring. From architecture to fashion and food, Medellín is a magical city!”

But “magical” isn’t exactly the word anyone would have used to describe Medellín in the 1980s, in spite of the perfect weather (spring temperatures every day of the year) and the annual Feria de Las Flores (a festival celebrating the area’s brilliant flowers). Then, the city was better known for poverty, violence, and drug smuggling—and that reputation has been a hard one to shake.

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“I think when people think of Colombian cities, they imagine places that are chaotic and crowded and dangerous,” Patricia says. “That has been true in the past, but there is also so much life, happiness, innovation and hope.”

And the world is taking notice. In 2013, the Urban Land Institute, in conjunction with Citi and the Wall Street Journal, named Medellín “Innovative City of the Year,” selecting it over contenders like Tel Aviv and New York City. Today, it’s in the news again for the River Project, an initiative that will relocate a main highway to make room for a park near the river.

“The people, the weather, and the mountains are beautiful, and when you step back and look at all of the new development happening, it’s hard not to be amazed,” she says.

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Patricia’s path from the colorful, lively streets of Colombia to Richmond wasn’t exactly a straight one. “To be honest, I didn’t even know Richmond existed when I was growing up,” she laughs. “I worked as a nanny for a family living here in the early 2000s, and I really liked it. I realized, ‘I’ve got to go to school here,’ and applied to Virginia Commonwealth University.”

Although she was constantly rearranging the furniture in her bedroom when she was little, she never imagined working as an interior designer—until it came time to choose a major.

“I read about the program at VCU and decided it sounded like a good fit,” she explains. “Any opportunity to do work that is creative and out-of-the-box is something I get excited about.”

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As she started to develop her personal design aesthetic, Patricia drew heavily on her background. “I remember in college, I would use every single color in all of my projects,” she says, smiling. “Professors would ask why, and I would say, ‘Well, that’s who I am.'”

Today, she looks to incorporate bright pops of color in more selective, intentional ways, but her love of many hues—and vibrant disposition—hasn’t changed a bit.

“My personality, the way I relate to people, is happy and hopeful, and that lends itself well to working in the hospitality industry,” Patricia says. “Along with my passion and creativity, my background is something I bring to the table. That knowledge is always going to be a dimension of who I am as a designer.”

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