Children Bicentennial Park
Alejandro Aravena / Elemental
Ricardo Torrejón (Architect) Luis Soler / Luis Soler Ingenieros (Structural engineering) Pascal Chautard / Limarí Lighting Design (Lighting project) DC Ingeniería Eléctrica (Electrical project) GDI ingeniería ( Emergency and security plan) Marta Vivero / Parque Metropolitano de Santiago (Landscape project)
Cristóbal Palma Víctor Oddó / Elemental
Chile’s main challenge is the huge inequalities between rich and poor, which has been causing increasing civic demands, social pressure and political tension. In order to correct it, the only thing that we hear is income redistribution. But cities may work as shortcuts towards equality because strategically identified urban projects can improve quality of life without having to wait for income redistribution: state of the art public transportation systems, high quality social housing and significant public spaces can correct inequalities in very concrete and tangible terms. In the case of Santiago, despite the country’s outstanding economic growth in the last decade, urban standards have not increased proportionally. In fact, Santiago has no single place where to go for a long walk without being interrupted by a street or without having to share the space with cars. The Children’s Bicentennial Park and the Metropolitan Promenade contribute to reduce the city’s historic debt of public space: Santiago has an average of 4 m2 of green space per inhabitant, being that the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends 9 m2 per person. (London has 44 m2 per inhabitant of green space). So, in a city with a privileged weather, with mild winters and long warm dry summers, any investment in public space has a huge social pay back, because it guarantees democratic access to places where people can enjoy life. A walkway such as the Metropolitan Promenade would be not only a public space of metropolitan scale and geographical magnitude, but also a path that connects rich and poor municipalities; a social equalizer.
The cities with the best quality of life tend to be those that build their public space on top of their main geographical features: Rio de Janeiro’s walkways along its beaches, Barcelona’s seaside along the ocean, Paris’ promenade along the Seine. Santiago’s most powerful feature is the Andes Mountains but there is no public space taking advantage of them. The Mapocho river that crosses the valley is occupied by highways and infrastructure. The Metropolitan Park, a 600-hectare hill that is part of the Andes, despite its central location in the city, it’s hard to use due to its slope. The only chance left, is the trace of an old irrigation canal at the base of the Metropolitan Park, that for almost 15km runs smoothly, almost horizontally, without ever crossing a car road. For 15 years now, we have been trying to transform this old canal into a pedestrian and cycling promenade. When we were asked to design a 4 hectare Children’s Park on the hillside, we not only thought of it as a urban amenity but as the initial phase of this promenade of metropolitan scale.
We wanted to use the difficulty of the terrain, being on a hillside, to solve a classic dilemma of children's games: make them safe or make the fun. The steep slope allowed us to accumulate the necessary height to make them fun without threatening security. A slide of 6 meters (fun) on level ground implies that a child has to be about 4 meters from the ground (dangerous). In this case, the slope allowed the fact that a child could climb to a very long slide and still be—always—30 centimeters from the ground. The same happens with a tree house: instead of vertically climbing the tree trunk to the foliage, the slope allowed us for a child to walk horizontally to the top of the tree.