The architect Gonzalo Carrasco tells how the vestiges of the theme park Chile in Miniature, also known as Magic World, can potentially document both the national patrimony at the beginning of the eighties and a visualization of an ideal Chilean landscape.
On April 13, 1983 the theme park Chile in Miniature (later known as Mundo Mágico (Magic World)) opened its doors. The project was done by Swinburn & Pedraza Architects who responded to the task of translating the principal geographic and architectural landmarks of the country to a scale of 1:25, 350 m long. This objective meant that the national landscape had to be subjected to a radical process of selection and decontextualization. These operations, together with the careful precision of some of the models, made Chile in Miniature an artifact that can be understood both as a document of the state of the national patrimony at the beginning of the eighties and a visualization of an ideal Chilean landscape.
Looking at the project today, Chile in Miniature means being able to question the landscape imaginary that the model proposed, and the form that it projected for the future construction of an ideal of the country. To this we must add that this double process of representation and projection was carried out in a period when the political, economic, social and cultural environment was strongly marked by the dictatorship, by the eruption of postmodern architecture and by the dramatic transformations to which the cities of the country were being subjected.
Although other miniature parks or “mini-worlds” (1) tried to reproduce a fragment of reality through a selection of architectures and landscapes in a series of dioramas or scenes, one distinctive feature of the Chilean case is that it was exhibited outside of Chile. Thanks to the scale condition proposed by the model, a relationship of control and a vision of totality were created for the visitor (2). In Chile in Miniature, the landscape represented not only proposes a unique future, but also like a kaleidoscope explodes in a profusion of possible visions, suggesting a multiple territory, a true heterotopia.
(1) Like the one in Bekonscot (Great Britian), France miniature, Madurodam (Holanda), Mini Israel, Mini-Europe (Belgium), Minimundus (Austria), Model World (Ireland), Swissminiatur, Italy in miniature, Portugal dos Pequenitos, The Turks of Miniaturk and Minicity, The Spanish of Catalunya en Miniatura, Gipuzkoa en Miniatura, Pirenarium and Pueblochico, the South Americans Minimundo (Perú) y Repúblic of Children (Argentina), in addition to the different parks Legoland located on either side of the Atlantic. What appears as a constant in all cases is maintaining the miniature condition of the model with a smaller than 1: 1 scale, varying from 1:72, used in the Canadian Miniature World and 1: 9 used in the Wimborne Model Town 1:12 of the parks of countries with imperial measurement system. In the Chilean case, the scale chosen was 1:25, which is repeated in most of the miniature parks around the world.
(2)This condition has fascinated artists and architects of the 20th century, as was the case of Charles Eames and his replica of a train moving through towns and miniature fields that he recorded in his short film “Toccata for Toys Trains” of 1957. The writer Paul Auster recorded this fascination in the description of the city in miniature, or City of the World,” which his character Stone built in the novel The Music of Chance (1990) that for Auster is ” in a sense, […] an autobiography, but in another sense is what we might call a utopia; a place where the past and the future come together.” It is this condition of utopia that makes the model of a landscape or a miniature city possible, which is the same one that shares the work of the artist Isek Kingelesz and his miniature visions for a surreal Kinshasa and alternative to the real city. This para-temporal character of the miniature also appears in the different versions of Super-City constructed by Douglas Coupland based on the toy blocks of his childhood. Or in the city of Aleppo dreamed by Mohammed Qutaish, a 13-year-old Syrian boy who built a miniature model of his city devastated by bombing.
Thus, for example, the coastline is redrawn, presenting not only a transformed coast, but one that strongly emphasizes the productive elements of the Chilean sea over other possibilities such as those offered by tourism for example. Another vision is established through the installation of seven railway lines, thus presenting a country in which the train would be the main means through which to read and travel through the territory. It also builds the fundamental link of a country with its high summits in relation to its human settlements, making it clear that in Chile, city and mountain act as two strongly linked entities that are parts of the same totality.
Chile in Miniature is also a paradoxical representation of the imprecise condition of what is and what is not a city in a historical moment in which urban growth was violently transforming the national territory, making these distinctions imprecise. In fact, in the model, and in the specific case of Santiago, the foundational grid was drastically transformed, altering its constituent distances, orientations and even the relationships between buildings that shared the same block, suggesting an alternative Santiago formed by a few monumental blocks.
From its current condition of ruin – despite some still recognizable vestiges of the model’s volcanoes and high peaks– almost 16 years after the closure of Chile in Miniature, it is pertinent to return to this representation of our cities and landscapes. Here can be seen the construction of an ideal world with its controlled variables and a miniature’s capacity to shape an image of the territory, possible to dominate and administer.
Gonzalo Carrasco Purull is an architect (2001) and holds a PhD in Architecture and Urban Studies from the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile (2015), where he is an Assistant Adjunct Professor. He also teaches courses in Theory, History and Criticism in the Architecture Schools of University of Santiago, University Mayor, University Andres Bello, University Finis Terrae, and University of the Republic of Uruguay. He participated as curator of the Uruguay Pavilion at the XIII Venice Architecture Biennale (2012). Together with the Uruguayan architect Pedro Livni, he is the founder of the architecture criticism site Vostokproject.com