The site we know today as Las Majadas de Pirque has a history that dates back to 1830, when it was part of the estate of Don Ramón Subercaseaux Mercado. Today, and after significant reconstruction undertaken by the Melincue Society after the 2010 earthquake, the palace and park have become key pieces of the new (epi)center of conversation to encourage the construction of Latin American social capital.
The site we know today as Las Majadas de Pirque has a history that dates back to 1830 with the purchase of the estate of Don Ramón Subercaseaux Mercado. With the goal of transforming the arid condition of the plain, the mining mogul excavated the Pirque Canal that today distributes water from the Maipo River to cultivate barley and alfalfa used for breeding and caring for the estate’s cattle. When Subercaseaux died, his Fundo Isla de Pirque, located between the Clarillo and Maipo rivers, was subdivided by his widow Magdalena Vicuña into six properties: Las Casas or Santa Rita de Pirque, awarded to Magdalena Vicuña; Isla de Pirque, assigned to Manuela Subercaseaux V .; El Cruceral, assigned to Antonio Subercaseaux V .; El Llano de Pirque, awarded to Emiliana Subercaseaux V .; El Tollo and San Juan de Pirque, awarded to Carmen Subercaseaux V .; and Las Majadas, awarded to Francisco Subercaseaux V.
As established by Revista Selecta in the early twentieth century, Las Majadas was considered as “a model of its kind …. Its production is of the first order, both for the number of bales that are prepared annually and for the excellent quality of the grass, scrupulously prepared. It produced 102,000 metric quintals annually, sold at $ 6.40. […] Its houses are sumptuous or rather palaces, and bring to mind the ideal of gentleman-farmer of England…. In these, the whole year can be utilized and the absenteeism that agriculture often complains so much of is not conceived. Its park has been drawn freely, taking advantage of the beautiful perspectives of the Andes Mountains. It is full of avenues and has a charming appearance ”(1).
(1) Revista Selecta Vol.1:2 (May 1909), p.68.
The construction of the palace and the park, by architects Alberto Cruz Montt and Guillaume Renner respectively, allowed that around 1909 the site could be recognized as a ferme ornée, or ornate farm, where the expressive use of perennial trees functioned as screens and as a means to modulate the bland stretches of grass of the park’s layout. Where a group of trees met with a grass plane, Renner incorporated tangent curves, which allowed the transition between materials, guaranteeing the expansion of the surface and the desired visual effect. By combining shades of peumos, araucarias, ceibos, lime trees and chestnut trees with the slender lines of the trunks of plane trees and palm trees, contrasts were established between light and dark foliage, the effect of which was increased with the placement of sculptures, capable of vitalizing the scene when redirecting the view and providing scenic interest to the composition.
From 1928 the site evolved intermittently until, in 2006, Argentine businessman Wenceslao Casares acquired the property to settle there with his family. Soon, the history of Las Majadas took a new course when Casares and local businessmen Pablo Bosch and Diego Valenzuela decided to transform the site into a “(epi)center of conversations, whose objective is to promote the construction of social capital in Latin America. For this, the Melincue Society was formed for the recovery and reconstruction of the Las Majadas space in 2010″(2).
(2) The basis of the project can be found in detail in Las Majadas de Pirque (2015) <http://www.lasmajadas.cl>
Specifically, the transformation of the Las Majadas site consisted of the remodeling of the palace, by Teodoro Fernández Arquitectos; the construction of a residence and restaurant, by Lyon & Bosch Arquitectos; and the redesign of the park by both offices.
The aim of the project for the palace was to adapt it to a new program of meetings and public use, in order to guarantee its continued use into the future. It was developed in two stages: before the earthquake of February 27, 2010 and after it. In the first phase, a structural reinforcement plan of the masonry walls was established with a system of concrete pillars and steel reinforcements. Likewise, the wooden floors were reinforced so that they contributed to the building’s bracing.
In the second phase all the perimeter walls were reinforced, the interior transverse walls of the structure were constructed. The wooden floors were replaced with reinforced concrete slabs and all the original interior divisions of wooden partition walls were demolished.
The works were complemented with the enhancement of the original terraces to the north, west and south, and with a new main access from the east, positioning the palace as the dominant element of the park. To accomplish this, the park itself was reorganized based on a structural conjunction of multiple paths and forms of water distribution throughout the site. In the center of the park, three lagoons at different levels reflect the cedar and magnolia treetops, and deliver a soft sound that isolates the site from outside noise, while the paths that run through the park under slender plane trees and leafy peumos generate different scenarios of light and shade throughout the year. As a result, the site has become a place that lends itself to opportunities for conversation and contemplation.
Excerpt from the panels of the permanent exhibition “The Site of Las Majadas de Pirque,” with texts by the author and drawings by Dominique Bruneau S. If you want to know more about the place and its activities, go to www.lasmajadas.cl, or write to email@example.com