Woven Landscapes
Claudia Larrain Mery For Lofscapes
(1) Anika Hellemons, Tambo de Zapahuira (2018) – © Instagram @anikabelle  / (2) Patricio Banda González, Chullpa de barro en Zapahuira (2018) – © Instagram @patobandafotos

Memory, Reason, and Imagination are key concepts when considering proposals for conservation and valuing anew Places with Cultural Significance. Memory helps us to remember the past, reason allows us to access it for the present and imagination helps us to create something new. If we really want to preserve the values and potential of heritage sites such as Zapahuira and Copaquilla, this triad should guide our interventions.

Until the first decade of the 21st century, the State through CONADI prioritized its mission as an organism to develop the indigenous world by strengthening its cultural identity, which translated into an evident lack of vision about heritage. In 2012, to recognize and manage the indigenous peoples’ material legacy left by their millenarian ancestors, CONADI began a pilot project in the community of Putre with the Aymara communities of Zapahuira and Copaquilla. The project consisted of a process to integrate the tangible dimensions of Aymara heritage upon their communities’ territories. Among the results of this work, the idea arose to develop the museographic potential of Places of Cultural Significance through designs to convert these into “true Museums of Sites” (1).

(1) Álvaro Romero G. “Arqueología y pueblos indígenas en el extremo norte de Chile” (Archeology and indigenous peoples in the extreme North of Chile) Chungará, Revista de Antropología Chilena, Volume 35, nº2, 2003: 337.
Regional Directorate of CONADI, Región Arica and Parinacota, Patrimonio y Comunidades Indígenas Aymaras: (Aymara Heritage and Indigenous Communities) Compilación de Registro Sistemático de Yacimientos Arqueológicos del sector de Zapahuira y Copaquilla (Compilation of the Register of Archaeological Sites in Zapahuira and Copaquilla) (Santiago, Chile: gráfica LOM, 2008) 87-119.


The idea of ruins that this work proposes is as a museum element of patrimonial conservation, bringing these sites closer to a monumental condition and distancing them in certain respects from the current landscape in which they are inserted. To conserve a ruin so that through it the past can be approached constitutes a significant incorporation of the present order in the construction. Then, when the ruin is accompanied by plaques with historical summaries, places with objects and images that allude to the “living” time of the place or structure, everything must be rearranged, controlled, and exposed so that the user has a comfortable access to that reconstructed past from the present. This is how a ruin emerges as a monument, an institutionalized object of memory (2).

(2) Felipe Lanuza, “Ruina, alegoría y anamnesis. El ejercicio de la memoria sobre la des-aparición del ferrocarril de cintura de Santiago” (Ruins, allegory, and anamnesis. The exercise of memory on the disappearance of the belt railway of Santiago) Revista de Arquitectura nº 18, Segundo Semestre, Universidad de Chile, 2008: 22-23


The ruins, like the outdated state of a construction or place, evoke their origin and previous life, always referring to an absence. In this sense, absence opens up possible perspectives for interpretation and use, implying an exercise of memory as imagination. A memory of the uncertain: what could have been or what may be. The question is directed in both directions on the time line, leaving the present and exploring what it is not capable of containing. The ruins of Zapahuira and Copaquilla can be taken inversely, not as a landscape, deteriorating and at risk of disappearing, but as the foundation of an unfinished landscape (3).

(3) Felipe Lanuza, 21


In the tour through Zapahuira and Copaquilla, today we find artificial elements such as paskanas, pirqas, chullpas, tambos, roads and walkways among others, which show the transformations made by man in the territory, those that gradually changed its configuration forming a landscape with cultural meaning. Currently, these elements are seen as intrinsic components of this landscape. In the case of Zapahuira, its presence shows this crucial point of circulation of goods and people has been maintained over time. Its tambos, paskanas, and the current stopping places of those who transport goods speak to us of this. In Zapahuira, the years pass but it does not lose its identity and ability to offer shelter and rest. Copaquilla also remains intact as an agricultural oasis. Even the existence of funerary monuments and squares tells us that just like today, there was an intense social life here that included public ceremonies and festivities. The visible ruins of Zapahuira and Copaquilla are recognized as representations of the invisible values their identity gave them and continues to give them.

Nevertheless, valuing these vestiges does not mean transforming them into relics of reminders or nostalgic elements that give the landscape a sentimental or romantic character, but rather it implies the rescue of the memory of the place with a retrospective vision and a projection. Through this vision and projection, the traces and marks of the past may act as an active part of the complexity that makes up this particular landscape. In this sense, the architecture of the landscape, more than a detailed understanding of the physical and phenomenological conditions of the place, seeks to express the site in terms of its organizational characteristics and its relationships, providing a reading of the place as a subject for new descriptions and interpretations.

On the other hand, there are those who were born, live and work in Zapahuira and Copaquilla, and have had proximity to these ruins and vestiges as important parts of their life experience. There are others who have had a more remote relationship with some understanding of what those spaces were, while still others have no idea of the previous functions of those ruins, but all can find vestiges that refer to a past of which these are fragmentary remnants. These views could help to establish more precise ways of how memory takes shape in each of them, understanding that Zapahuira and Copaquilla, in their condition of absence, have distinct ways of appearing (4).

(4) Translator’s note: In Aymarà a paskana is a place of rest along a route. A pirqa is a stone wall. A tambo is a military or trading outpost. A chullpa is a funerary tower.
(4) Felipe Lanuza, 28


In this absence as an opportunity to be filled, the historical rescue as a form of conservation and valuing and the current condition of the ruins of Zapahuira and Copaquilla allow for a margin of exploration: these vestiges in their potential as a dimension of the landscape with cultural significance can be a place open to evoking the past that, instead of being absorbed into the present, can be left at a certain distance in their condition of absence. Promoting this opening means appealing to the triad: Memory, Reason, and Imagination. This implies the possibility of remember the past, accessing it for the present, and depositing a new meaning in the territory by conserving that distance (5). The challenge, then, is to build a landscape project of Zapahuira and Copaquilla based on those values of promise, uncertainty, evocation of a past and a present open to be recreated again and again.

(5) John Dixon Hunt, “What is Wrong with Nostalgia Anyway?” Change Over Time, 3.1 Nostalgia (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania, Spring 2013)


Claudia Larrain Mery. Architect, University of Chile, with a Master’s degree in Landscape Architecture from Pontifical Catholic University of Chile, Master’s degree in History and Management of Cultural Heritage from the University of Los Andes, and President of the Landscape Culture Corporation.

(3) Javiera Castro – Visit to the small village of Copaquilla (2016) – © Flickr
(4) Andres Puiggros, The Path (2017) Pukara de Copaquilla – © Flickr
(5) Jerónimo Pérez. Copaquilla (2008) – © Flickr


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