Today we end our fourth year as a site dedicated to landscape architecture and critical reflection on Chile’s landscape transformation. Whether from the field of artistic endeavors, specific project disciplines (proposed or built), or from landscape theory or history, as a collective, we aim to continue collecting, transmitting, and interpreting the views of the inhabitant, the promenader, the observer at a distance, the critic and the sceptic.
Those of us who have tried to reconstruct the process of territorial conversion from the projection and management of landscapes, reacted with astonishment last October to the statements of those who, after promoting the “Ley Arbolito” (Tree Law) misnamed by the Minister of Agriculture, supported the eradication of the species that would be responsible for the high index of allergies of the capital’s population (1): Platanus spp. (Planetrees), Robinia pseudoacacia (black locust) and Acacia melanoxylon (blackwood).
(1) Consider the interview with Sonia Reyes on “Un Nuevo Día” CNN Chile (Oct. 25, 2018), and the report by Carla Zunino, “Ley Arbolito: Evalúan Prohibir los Plátanos Orientales” (Tree Law: Evaluating the Prohibition of Planetrees” on “Mañana Informativa,” (Morning Report) Canal 24 Horas TVN (25 Oct. 2018).
Those of us who have tried hard to reconstruct the history of public places in the city of Santiago have followed with the same degree of astonishment the charging of businessman, Raúl Schüler Gatica, for infringement of the Law of National Monuments and the Law of Weapons and Ammunition Control after the seizure from his home in San Francisco de Mostazal of armaments, patrimonial artifacts, and sculpture (2). To date, at least sixteen marble figures originally installed in the General Cemetery have appeared, another from the Catholic Cemetery, also in Santiago, two sculptures from the Val d’Osne foundry from Santa Lucia Hill, and another from the Plaza Rubén Darío in Valparaiso.
(2) See among other reports from the national press, Carla Ruiz Pereira, “El Arte de Robar: la Desconocida Trama que Quedó al Descubierto tras el Caso de Raúl Schüler,” La Tercera (Sábado December 1, 2018). (The Art of Stealing: The unknown plot discovered behind the Case of Raúl Schüler, Tercera newspaper, Sabado magazine)
Those of us who have been involved – in one way or another – in transmitting landscape as construction can only question our capacity to stimulate and contribute to promoting landscape as a public asset. Seen in this role, the public good can influence and, at the same time, work with the natural processes, social phenomena, and aesthetic principles. Because if we were successful in our efforts, where is our historical memory to recognize that the acacias and planetrees were painstakingly introduced in the nineteenth century in an effort to replace the semiarid character of Santiago with a green and cultivated oasis, so successful today that this condition seems natural to us? Where is the civic culture that would allow us to visualize that these supposedly stolen sculptures of nineteenth-century public parks and gardens are particularly valuable? That they have given flexibility to the routes, integrating visual touches or focal points, avoiding an excessive openness to the surrounding environment and allowing a factor of surprise to appear? Where is the awareness of the value of these elements beyond their character as objects, their isolated presence and their individual understanding? Finally, why is there no impetus to recognize and safeguard historic landscapes as model projects – characteristic of measures of urban transformation – that have to be maintained, conserved and recovered?
We close this 2018 with a new concern: how can the spectrum of visions and the definition of a common language about the national landscape that we have tried to incorporate through this website prevail?
“We only see what we look at… The way we see things is affected by what we know or what we believe…. To look is an act of choice.”
- John Berger, Ways of Seeing (London: Penguin Books, 1972): 8