2022

MCHAP

Bicentennial Park in Ecatepec

José Pablo Ambrosi and Loreta Castro Reguera / Taller Capital

Ecatepec de Morelos, Mexico

February 2021

PRIMARY AUTHOR

José Pablo Ambrosi and Loreta Castro Reguera / Taller Capital

CONTRIBUTING AUTHOR

CLIENT

Secretaría de Desarrollo Agrario Territorial y Urbano (SEDATU), Government of Mexico

PHOTOGRAPHER

Rafael Gamo

OBJECTIVE

To face insecurity and crime caused by enclosure, the project responds by demolishing the surrounding fence. It connects the north and south segments of the neighborhood by elongating former dead ends, helping the community use and traverse the park. A single watchtower was added in the least visited area, enhancing its use by the public, while becoming an important element of community surveillance. Six large scale light posts were added to illuminate the space during night hours. Low size vegetation is removed to promote cross views, while multiplying the tree count and creating a shadow canopy.

To promote the use of public space, the project designs new traversing streets or hardscapes as public, programmatic spaces. Here playgrounds, calisthenics and parkours were added. A series of new rest spaces and kiosks are scattered around the park. Deteriorated sanitary pre-existing facilities structures are recycled into open and ventilated buildings, promoting secure and clean spaces for women and children.

To repair eroded land and mitigate floods, the project transforms the landscape, designing volcanic stone gravel-filled platforms to facilitate infiltration.

The project combines infrastructure and public space addressing both social and environmental necessities through prefabricated pieces of concrete and a very limited amount of construction systems and details. The multiple elements that are placed across the programmatic terraces reflect this ambition and the will to integrate landscape, water management and urban design in a retroactive infrastructure, where landscape is given the possibility to be an active agent for the better function of the city.

CONTEXT

The municipality of Ecatepec grew around ancient prehispanic towns, drastically extending in size and population from 1960’s until today, with 1.65 million people in a 1.86 km2 area. It has been recognized as one of the most violent and insecure places in Mexico.

Bicentenario park was inaugurated in 2010, transforming a former waste dump and power lines path into a public space. The 20 Ha park lies amid a low income neighborhood, an informal settlement that creeps over the hillside of Sierra Guadalupe. For this purpose, it was totally fenced, allowing entrance through only 5 spots along the 2.3 km perimeter, while provoking several dead end streets. This enclosure condition made it the perfect place to commit crimes, as the inner space was out of sight. It also allowed its gradual deterioration. The park became an isolated, very large space that created segregation between neighborhoods. Moreover, its hillside condition (perfect for natural infiltration of rainwater) was totally disregarded, allowing erosion and fostering urban flash floods.

In 2019, SEDATU decided to invest in restructuring 8 Ha of the park, specifically the less used and most derelicted ones, including the betterment of 4 existing soccer fields, pathways, children’s playgrounds, public toilets, calisthenics and rest areas. The main objective consisted in diminishing insecurity by promoting the potentiality of public space as a social condenser.

PERFORMANCE

The park opened for use in February 2021. Tearing down the wall has transformed completely the way in which neighbors approach this space. Specifically during the weekend, pedestrian hardscapes are used by children and teens as skate and bicycle spaces. Kiosks have been adopted as picnic spots, renovated soccer fields are constantly in use. It is easy to notice activity taking place across the area, as traversal views have been favored by the intervention. There are already small shops opening doors in the perimeter, using the new broad sidewalks to set tables.

The community was integrated into the design process, they proposed a race course around the largest soccer field, helping a large number of runners to train during weekdays. Several adjacent walls have been promoted to hold graffiti murals. Open hard-spaces have been adopted as spaces to dance and rap.

The use of gravel platforms has proved very successful, as these need much less maintenance than former “lawns,” never covered by grass, while exposing the earth and its vulnerability to erosion. However, the municipality has not been able yet to pay for the debted electricity bills, so the space is still unlighted during night hours.

The success of the intervention has permitted a second phase, where the remaining 12 Ha will be intervened with a more complex program which includes a rodeo area (lienzo charro), a baseball field, a very large skatepark, roofed areas for mob dance, endemic species gadens, seasonal gardens and a regulatory basin.