The proposal for the rehabilitation of the Central Courtyard of the Gabriela Mistral Museum of Education is based on the design of a Courtyard-Garden, understood as a typology that connects functional and ornamental requirements. Three principles are used that consider the site’s pre-existing conditions: recognition of the site as an integral part of the museum and its museographic narrative, enhancement of the fountain as a central space of the museum, and a three-dimensional understanding of the Courtyard-Garden.
Located at the intersection of Compañía de Jesús and Chacabuco streets in the Barrio Yungay of Santiago, the Gabriela Mistral Education Museum is an important cultural space whose mission is to rescue and disseminate the pedagogical heritage of Chile. The patrimonial building of 1886, which originally housed the Normal School for Girls No. 1, is organized around two courtyards: one located in the eastern wing, associated with the administrative area, and the other in the western wing, linked to the museographic space and which in practice has operated as the museum’s central space.
To enhance this condition of central courtyard is precisely the objective of the project: to rehabilitate the space using an intervention strategy that proposes the design as a support for the museum’s use and its museographic narrative (1). Known as Patio Los Tilos because of the two specimens of Tilo trees that are found there, this space presented a series of conflicts associated with the use of the site by visitors and officials: lack of spaces for group audiences, few facilities for temporary exhibitions, problems of conservation of existing vegetation, problems of runoff and infiltration of rainwater, progressive deterioration of the edges of the concrete pavement and of the water fountain, among others.
(1) Project Name: Rehabilitation of the Los Tilos Courtyard, Gabriela Mistral Museum of Education (Av. Chacabuco 365, Santiago, Chile) Client: DIBAM – Directorate of Libraries, Archives, and Museums · Architect: Osvaldo Moreno Flores · Collaborating Architect: Camila Romero Iriondo · Construction, sanitary and electrical installation: SBG Construcciones · Lighting Design: Osvaldo Moreno Flores · Budget: 3.5 UF/m2 ·Built Surface: 450 m2 3·Year: 2015 · Year of Construction: 2016
The proposal sought to establish a Courtyard-Garden typology that connects the functional requirements linked to the concept of courtyard and its tradition as a support for the operations, uses and programmatic functionalities as dictated by its history: first as a school playground and later as a support for the museum’s extension program activities. The space should also respond to the ornamental requirements linked to the concept of garden and an understanding of it as a place for contemplation. It should express the synthesis of a worldview contained in a space linked to symbolic and social values of each period, expressed in the arrangement of the vegetation, the grounds, the furnishings and the ornaments. The intervention proposes, then, to enhance the condition of Courtyard-Garden, a synthesis of hybridization between nature and artifice, based on three principles: recognition of the site as an integral part of the museum and its museographic narrative, the highlighting of the fountain as a central space of the museum, and a three-dimensional understanding of the new space.
First Principle: The idea of grounds as a support for museum’s use and story contemplates the configuration of a system of pavement that accommodates symbolic and programmatic situations, reinterpreting the historical use of the space. In this sense, the design of this space makes it possible to relate the four quadrants that are recognized and formed by the existing pavement to be conserved: to the north, hard soils predominate, favoring not only the main circulations from the courtyard to the corridors and rooms on the first floor, but also the formal creation of a meeting space for groups of visitors to the museum, defining the courtyard as the starting point of the museum visitor’s route. Towards the south, soft soils predominate, where the grass is conducive to spaces for resting and contemplation favored by the layout of the routes and by the conditions of permanent exposure to sunlight for the adequate maintenance of the greens.
Second Principle: The restoration of the fountain and its surroundings considering it as not only a meeting place and contemplation area, but also as a central space of the museum. This condition, already reinforced with the existing walkways and the proposed soil works, is complemented by the more specific operations: the deteriorated benches were replaced by four granite benches from which one can sit facing “towards” or “away from” the fountain’s space, facilitating the organization of routes or exhibitions towards the quadrants of the courtyard. As a specific intervention, we also sought to improve the functionality of the fountain, so that the water supply was restored and its bottom and edges were consolidated through a design using a polished granite covering.
Third Principle: The understanding of the Courtyard-Garden’s three dimensional quality is generated by the reading of the space from the corridors of the museum’s second floor. From this vantage point, a degree of visual and sensory interaction based on the presence of the existing trees and the elements that are integrated into the design. Thus, the foliage of the trees – especially the two Tilos – provides a green mass at the height of the second floor corridors and in the Spring the aromas related to the flowering Tilos accentuates the experience. It is in this way from the second floor that the pavement system is perceived in its entirety, giving meaning to the idea of these grounds as a support for the museum’s contents and activities.
Osvaldo Moreno Flores is an architect of the University of Chile, holds a Master’s degree in Landscape Architecture, Environment and City Planning from the National University of La Plata and holds a Ph.D. (c) in Architecture and Urban Planning. He is currently an academic of the Faculty of Architecture and Urbanism of the University of Chile and of the School of Architecture of the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile, where he is also Head of the Master’s Program in Landscape Architecture.