paseo zocalo metropolitano
Arquitectos: Alejandro Aravena + ELEMENTAL
Santiago no tiene ni un sólo espacio público de una dimensión acorde con la escala metropolitana que ha alcanzado. Si uno mira un plano de Santiago de hace 100 años, había un espacio que, por decirlo de alguna manera, le hacía el peso al tamaño total de la ciudad; el parque Cousiño era una pieza que cabía 5 veces en el ancho de la mancha urbana.
Architects: Alejandro Aravena + ELEMENTAL
What public space of a geographic scale do we have in Santiago? Don’t strain your memory: there isn’t any. It’s a shame that Santiago should not have a single public space of a dimension in accordance with the metropolitan scale it has reached. 100 years ago, if one looked at a map of Santiago, there were spaces, so to say, that could match the total size of the city; the Cousiño Park was a room which fit in 5 times the breadth of the urban stain, for instance.
Today there is not a single public space in Santiago large enough to be able to take a convenient walk; after a few minutes walking, one begins to wonder where to continue; our public spaces are like those intermittent rivers of the desert which disappear after a while. In fact, our river, which is generally the easiest place along which a promenade could have been built, has intermittent public spaces along its banks. The proportion between the larger extension of a public space, whether it is a park or just a simple sidewalk fitted out for jogging, and the whole of Santiago’s urban space, is around 1 to 50, i.e., an insignificant accident in the metropolitan stain.
Apart from one exception, Santiago has the largest metropolitan park of the world, which, in spite of having a privileged position in the valley, is just visited by 5 million people a year (i.e., each inhabitant of Santiago visits the park only once a year). What have we done to capitalize this park of geographical magnitude? Nothing, because although huge efforts have been made to turn that rock into a park, as it is a hill, it is not a place fit for taking a walk. What makes the difference is a quite subtle thing, but a real one: cars use the same lanes as pedestrians and those lanes are downhill lanes. Some sports can be practiced on the hill, but one cannot go riding bikes with children, take a walk with the grandparents, play ball or just simply walk, because there is no horizontal space; only a horizontal place can provide that typical carefree level of a walk.
Some years ago, the architect Ricardo Torrejón presented as degree thesis a project to transform the old Canal del Carmen that surrounded the Cerro (Hill) San Cristóbal, into a pedestrian promenade. That canal (Carlos Ried, the street above the television channels, is a trace of it) has a horizontal extension of 10 kilometers. Given that the valley’s slope is 2 per cent and that of the old irrigating canal is just 4 per thousand (i.e., practically horizontal), as the canal surrounds the hill, it rises above the roofs of the city and above the valley. This kind of Zócalo of the Park could become a promenade of geographic magnitude with a minimum level of investment and provide Santiago, at last, with at least one promenade where one could forget for a long while the road to follow and enjoy its geography.
To capitalize this pedestrian continuous promenade of a geographic scale could just mean clearing the bushes from the canal and filling it up with gravel, but the real obstacle for it are not resources but coordination.