CENTENNIAL ROUTE · PARQUE FORESTAL
©Francisca Salas P. for LOFscapes
In the Month of Independence Celebrations, we invite you to visit Parque Forestal both for its role in connecting those urban landmarks representative of the celebration of the Centenary of the Independence of Chile and in its status as an urban piece that reinterprets the south bank of the Mapocho River.
To celebrate the one hundred years of the Independence of Chile, the Centennial Commission of the Republic was formed. Its objective was to organize a program of cultural activities and manage projects capable of highlighting the attributes of the city and promoting its beautification. In this context and as a tribute, a series of monuments were donated by foreign countries, and urban projects were inaugurated that defined the character and organizational structure of the city, projecting, at the same time, its growth and development. Among these projects were the execution of a new sewer and street lighting system, the Mapocho canalization and the inauguration of the Mapocho, Pirque and Bellas Artes Metro Stations, among others (1).
(1) Fernando Pérez, José Rosas y Luis Valenzuela, “Aguas del Centenario,” (Waters of the Centennial) ARQ 60 (July 2005), p.72-74.
In this Cycle Route column, we invite you to travel through the Parque Forestal both for its role connecting those urban landmarks representative of the celebration of the Centenary of the Independence of Chile and for its status as an urban piece that reinterprets the south bank of the river.
We begin our 1.9 km tour in Plaza Italia, border area between the communities of Santiago and Providencia and where the Monumento al Genio de la Libertad (Monument to the Genius of Freedom) is located, the work of the Italian sculptor Roberto Negri, donated by the Chilean-Italian colony in 1910. This sector, in addition to being a point of connection between the eastern and western parts of the city, also came to connect the new sewerage network and the Mapocho River (2). To the south was the Pirque Station, which connected the southern sector of the valley and whose absence today marks the beginning of the well-known Bustamante Park.
(2) Pérez, Rosas and Valenzuela, p.73.
Continuing in a western direction, at the intersection with Irene de Morales Street, we find, almost immediately, the renowned German Fountain, the work of the sculptor Agustín Eberline, which was donated to Chile by the German-Chilean colony for the Centennial. This monument is representative of the Republic of Chile, combining Chile’s productive activities of fishing, mining and agriculture.
When touring the park designed by the Frenchman Georges Dubois we encounter, towards the west, the Palace of Fine Arts, a neoclassical work designed by the architect Emile Jecquier. The structure emerges as an urban landmark within the park and as a pause in the tour given its monumentality. In front of the museum is the Monument to Glory, donated by the French-Chilean Colony.
Between rows of plane trees (Platanus x acerifolia), our tour ends at the Mapocho Station of the State Railways, which is currently called the Mapocho Station Cultural Center. Its neoclassical design was also by Jecquier and together with the Pirque Station it connected the valley with the south and north of the country respectively. The Mapocho Station Cultural Center now defines the end of the Parque Forestal and the beginning of the current Parque de los Reyes, which in 1910 was called Parque Centenario.
Our tour then positions Parque Forestal as a support infrastructure for a series of urban landmarks that recall the history and configuration of the city. At the same time the park’s strategic location is an extension and reinterpretation of the southern edge of the Mapocho and its connection with streets and structuring avenues of the city, such as José Miguel de la Barra, Santa Lucía, Pío Nono and Recoleta. This spine connects urban landmarks such as the Santa Lucía, San Cristóbal and Blanco Hills, the General Cemetery and the Alameda, to name just a few important landmarks (3).
(3) See attached route map © Francisca Salas P. for LOFscapes
This is how our tour allows us, once again, to evaluate the notion of infrastructure and its close relationship with the configuration of the urban landscape by becoming, as Anita Berrizbeitia points out, “an operation that combines different types of spaces… As an Operation works strategically to create the conditions for future events, as opposed to a conventional understanding of infrastructure as an artifact that exists for the sake of a technical program. It is through this combinatorial role that the operation of infrastructure has the potential to mediate between architecture and landscape in order to contribute to the reconceptualization of the urban realm”(4).