ABOUT URBAN RIVERS

Woven Landscapes
Romy Hecht M. For Lofscapes
20.10.2015
(1) Plečnik, Trnovi pristan, Ljubljana (1930) © Plečnik’s Ljubljana: An Architectural Guide (Ljubljana: Dessa, 1997), p.76.

Recalling the words of Mario Pérez de Arce L., who in 1996 stated that “[…] in a space of these dimensions you cannot imagine the construction of a single continuous park in a simplistic way, but as the succession of parks, gardens, large squares, urban open spaces, park-avenues, buildings or unique monuments,” today I can’t stop thinking about that lost river in Eastern Europe that I saw in February 2000, the Ljubljanica.

In our two publications last week we traveled sections, from the air and at ground level, of the project that seeks to recover the urban role of the Mapocho River in Santiago (1). The proposal, in development by the team Mapocho 42K since 2011 has been building a cycle route that throughout its course between the communities of Lo Barnechea and Pudahuel, integrates existing and/or future parks and green areas. Before considering the implicit historical evocation of the republican river that connected the walls of the riverbank as an elevated promenade and embankments as instances of use of the bed, or discussing the effectiveness of a linear programmatic element as a corridor, I would like at this time to summarize the words of Mario Pérez of Arce Lavín, intellectual architect of this project. In 1996, Pérez of Arce stated “that in a space of these dimensions you cannot imagine the construction of a single continuous park in a simplistic way, but as the succession of parks, gardens, large squares, urban open spaces, park-avenues, buildings or unique monuments”(2).


(1) See Mapocho 42K · Cerro Navia Section (Oct. 13, 2015) and Mapocho 42K Bike Path Project · Quinta Normal Section (Oct. 15, 2015).
(2) In “La Ciudad y el Río,” (The City and the River) ARQ 34 (Dec. 1996), p.21.
(3) The author has spoken before on this project. See “Intervenciones sobre un Río Urbano: el Ljubljanica de Plečnik,” (Interventions on an Urban River: the Ljubljanica of Plečnik) ARQ 48 (July 2001), p.48-49.


Every time I reread the original approach of Pérez de Arce L., I cannot stop thinking about that lost river in Eastern Europe that I encountered in February 2000, the Ljubljanica (3). Located in the heart of the capital of Slovenia, Ljubljana, the river has an urban course of 20 km, quite close to the 35 km of our Mapocho (which becomes 42 with the annexation of the Pudahuel sector). And, as in Santiago, its transformation was the result of a strategic intervention project led between 1928 and 1945 by Architect Jože Plečnik. Instead of understanding the river − and, as a result, the city − as an interrelated system based on functional points or sections, Plečnik assumed its potential to tell a story, with a beginning, plot development and an end that in his progression makes the most of the events offered along its path.

(3) The author has spoken before on this project. See “Intervenciones sobre un Río Urbano: el Ljubljanica de Plečnik,” (Interventions on an Urban River: the Ljubljanica of Plečnik) ARQ 48 (July 2001), p.48-49.


Functionally associating circulation systems with seats, sculptures, trees, pavements, luminaires, floodgates and buildings of various kinds, Plečnik shows us how a river can become a complex and relevant landscape project. While it is true that the river can be crossed along the riverbed, none of Plečnik’s interventions are the same as the previous one. At the junction of the Ljubljanica with its tributary, the Gradǎsčica (fig. 1), embankments were implemented evoking the memory of the piers that once existed for the transfer of stones, while the layout of the Three Bridges (fig. 2), at the site where the first wooden bridge was installed over the river, expresses the importance of this preexistence, with the construction of two new pedestrian bridges, one on each side of the existing one. The Central Market (fig. 3) is a monumental urban space that visually measures the transversality of the Ljubljanica, and the monumental construction of the lock-gate (fig. 4) defines a definitive threshold between the city and the suburbs as the river emerges through a vaulted arch demarcating the end of the series of memories and images infused by the spatial events distributed in this urban project.

It could be said that the Ljubljana of Plečnik is a landscape at defined urban-territorial scale based on the location and connectivity of the projects that configure it, its material condition, its logic of implementation, its operability in programmatic terms and its recognition of the peculiarities of the geography and the history of the site. More importantly, it is a landscape that does not need another continuous and linear element other than the river itself to be understood as such. I wonder, then, if it would not be a bad idea to add the words of Perez de Arce to Plečnik to look back at the landscape of the Mapocho: “I don’t want anything incredible, I want small things; I will make them great”(4).


(4) Quoted by Vladimir Šlapeta, in Jože Plečnik, Architect: 1872-1957 (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1989), p.92.

(2) Plečnik, Tromostovje, Ljubljana (1929-32) © Romy Hecht for LOFscapes
(3) Plečnik, Tržnice, Ljubljana (1939-42) © Romy Hecht for LOFscapes
(4) Plečnik, Zapornica, Ljubljana (1933-45) © Romy Hecht for LOFscapes
(5) Mapocho 42K, Cerro Navia Section (2014-15) © Verónica Aguirre for LOFscapes
(6) Mapocho 42K, Cerro Navia Section(2014-15) © Verónica Aguirre for LOFscapes
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2019-10-28T17:37:46-03:00
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