IDEAS COMPETITION FOR THE SANTA LUCÍA HILL IN SANTIAGO, CHILE: A PROPOSAL WITH HISTORICAL SIGNIFICANCE
(1) Hume & Walker, “No.10. Carriage Drive” in Souvenir of Santa Lucia Hill, Santiago, Chile (Santiago, Librería Inglesa, undated) / (2) Hume & Walker, “No.14. Archway and Steps leading to Chapel Burial Place of Vicuña Mackenna” in Souvenir of Santa Lucia Hill, Santiago, Chile (Santiago, Librería Inglesa, undated)/ (3) Hume & Walker, “No. 20. Santiago from Santa Lucía Hill (Cathedral, Santo Domingo and Merced Churches)” in Souvenir of Santa Lucia Hill, Santiago, Chile (Santiago, Librería Inglesa, undated)
Although the winning proposal does not explicitly indicate that our heritage value can also be demonstrated through the revitalization of those gardens that are living vestiges of previous ideas, the proposal of the team – Paula Livingstone, Javiera Jaude, Juan Hurtado and Patricio Huidobro – stands out for its historical sensitivity, which is reflected in simple but radical interventions that give new meaning to Santa Lucia hill by assigning new names to old spaces and routes.
On March 12, 2015, the jury evaluating the Architecture and Design Ideas Competition for the “Restoration and Enhancement of the Santa Lucia Hill” named the proposal of landscape architects Paula Livingstone and Javiera Jaude, and architects Juan Hurtado and Patricio Huidobro as winner of the competition (1).
(1) Official Judgment of the Jury, PUBLIC COMPETITION Architecture and Design Ideas for the “Restoration and Valorisation of the Santa Lucía Hill” (March 12, 2015).
Without doubt, the main challenge of the contest was the location for the intervention. Santa Lucia Hill is a complex landmark, loaded with history and multiple connotations and interventions, which today is considerably different from that rough rock – as Benjamín Vicuña Mackenna called it – from which the plain was visualized, and from that strategic belvedere which positioned it as the first and last Spanish bulwark, reminding us rather of a small forest built from cracks and gorges planted and delivered to the Municipality of Santiago in 1874 (2). In the jury’s opinion, the approach of the winning project to this condition was consistent, subtle, sensitive and harmonious when establishing a restoration based on the ceremonial and foundational character of the hill.
(2) Benjamín Vicuña Mackenna, “Introducción. Descripción Jeneral,” Álbum del Santa Lucía. Colección de las Principales Vistas, Monumentos, Jardines, Estatuas y Obras de Arte de este Paseo (Santiago: Imprenta de la Librería del Mercurio, 1874), iv-xvii. (“Introduction: General Description,” Collection of Principal Viewpoints, Monuments, Gardens, Statues, and Works of Art of this Place) Santiago: Edition of the Mercurio Publishers, 1874, iv-xvii.
From the representations of the project, we can see that the fundamental strategies focus on the opening and consolidation of a containment edge, on the definition of three paths with specific and differentiated character, on the intensification of areas through plant reinforcements, on the purification of infrastructures such as the water system and its infiltration and, notably, on the enhancement of the rocky elements that emerge as vestiges of a previous state. In addition, intensifying the use of the hill is proposed through the precise, measured and traditional incorporation of a varied program that adapts to existing constructions and that converts it back into an open social meeting space.
This opening of the hill, in addition to activating the site through the reconditioning of trails and scenic viewpoints, explicitly refers to the removal of the fence surrounding the Saint Lucia, which has existed since the late 1800s. This initiative seeks to strengthen the walls that contain the slopes at their base and that generate a physical but not visual distance with the city, thereby enhancing the natural topographic characteristic of the rugged cliff face. Since the use of fences in public spaces creates an inexhaustible discussion, removing this element is more a symbol for a place where the location, the access points and paths are clear and defined, seeking to give the urban space a sense of citizen justice in a society where virtuous sites have to be public and for everyone.
The jury also highlighted the revitalization of circulations and the distinction of three routes – Path to the Peak, Heritage Trail and Panoramic View Trail – which articulate a narrative by connecting historical elements and opening scenic viewpoints that had been closed. From the review of Vicuña Mackenna’s proposal of 1874, it follows that at least two of these roads find their origin in the design of the nineteenth century. First, the Heritage Trail (Sendero Patrimonial), which begins at the same point where the Great Road of the East started, the access from the Alameda and from where carriages ascended to circulate at an average height of 40 m above the urban plan of Santiago. Second, the Path to the Peak (Sendero de la Cumbre), which starts at the same point as the Garden Path (Camino de los Jardines), an old access from the Alameda on the western side of the hill. In the 1874 project, the front access of the Cascade Path (Sendero de la Cascada) is mentioned, which is present to this day and which led to the terrace where the Astronomical Observatory kiosk was located. In the winning proposal, this path leads to a terrace of restaurants and playgrounds. The third path of the proposal, which does not correspond to the nineteenth-century project, is that of the Panoramic Views (Vistas Panorámicas), which responds to the current urban character of the site, proposing conceptually to re-integrate the hill with the city to recover its original vantage point condition, which was nullified because of the development of tall buildings.
Given its name, it is understood that the competition was aimed at restoring the architectural character of the hill and its built elements, something that was certainly achieved in the proposed circulation system. However, we yearn for more precise thought in relation to the choice of plant material and the role of sequential gardens associated with the proposed route, also worthy of a restoration strategy. Although the proposal does not explicitly value the site’s heritage, through its revitalization of gardens, living vestiges of previous ideas, the winning proposal stands out for its historical sensitivity, which is reflected in simple but radical interventions that give new meanings to the hill by assigning new thematic names to the old spaces and proposing routes that implement new programs based on the current urban context and the empowered inhabitants of Santiago’s public space.