On December 31, 2015 the remodeling of the 2015 version of Av. Perú in Viña del Mar was inaugurated. In the words of Mayor Virginia Reginato after the investment of $1,500 MM pesos, the “Viñamarinos and visitors can enjoy a lovely walkway, widened for pedestrians, with beautiful landscaping, a bike path, and spaces for playgrounds and exercise machines. Therefore, we call upon all of you to take care of this emblematic walkway, which belongs to all of us.” Just 26 days later, the walkway was swept away by the high seas of our coastal waters. This column suggests that perhaps trying to restore the linear layout again is useless given the state of the land upon which it is located.
A large part of our publication efforts in 2015 focused on disseminating, implicitly and explicitly, the key role of anticipation in the making of landscape. In a society so accustomed to hiding its problems and using diminutives to mitigate the magnitude of our mistakes, understanding territorial occupation as an evolutionary process implies understanding that its design means anticipating and accommodating growth, evolution, and adaptation in the face of unexpected disturbances and/or new programs of use and events.
Fortuitous events, like the high seas that hit our coastline this summer, remind us that although the movement of waves − considered moderate if they rise to 1.5 m and strong if up to 2.5 m − is logical for a coastline, what is not logical is transforming such events into a destructive phenomenon because of an infrastructure project that occupies a public space in an area that is actually maritime terrain.
Built in the 1930s to connect the beaches of the Marga-Marga and Acapulco estuaries, the pedestrian walkway that we know today as Av. Peru had to be quickly fortified with a vertical wall of rocks. This wall coped with the erosion caused by its proximity to the sea, while ensuring its role connecting the coast with the urban center and triggering an expansion of the city towards the sea. The result was, certainly, a remarkable coastal walkway that ended up joining the Viña del Mar Casino with the buildings around San Martin Avenue. Though its construction created a striking breakwater that, in the face of the area’s natural climatic phenomena, fulfills its function, it necessitates regular public investment in the renovation of pavement, and replacement of street furniture, plants and greens, and even public lighting.
This obstinacy for preserving the historical memory of a place by restoring its physical condition in a specific temporal moment is valid, if we insist that the landscape is an operation of embellishing the urban condition. But having already overcome that notion decades ago, then the real challenge is to recognize that renovating yet again Avenida Peru is actually a used up and exhausted notion. If we can understand that there is no longer an opportunity to reconcile an ideal nature, ergo pristine, with the human footprint and its actions, then, perhaps, we would dare to say out loud that the historic-traditional pedestrian walkway can be discarded to give way to a coastal solution for the buildings. Elements such as lookout piers that radiate from the interior avenues could be included. This radical vision would allow that, more than a wasteland (1), Avenida Peru could be converted into tangible actions that would epistemologically and technically establish a base structure capable of defining the logic for transforming urban spaces into a one-hundred-year-old layout.
Translated from Spanish, the quote is from the Viña Press office, “Remodelada Av. Perú fue entregada al uso público por alcaldesa Virginia Reginato,” (Remodeled Avenida Peru was inaugurated for public use by Mayor Virginia Reginato, Municipality of Viña del Mar (Dec. 31, 2015) <https://prensavina.wordpress.com/2015/12/31/remodelada-av-peru-fue-entregada-al-uso-publico-por-alcaldesa-virginia-reginato/#more-14125>
(1) The landscape architect Günther Vogt presents the notion of wasteland or waiting land, as that land awaiting a new use. See Landscape as a Cabinet of Curiosities: In Search of a Position (Switzerland: Lärs Miller Publishers, 2015).