THE FORGOTTEN STONE WALLS OF MANQUEHUITO HILL
The stone walls of Manquehuito Hill are an element of anthropic origin that over time have become bound to their environment, triggering awareness of landscape relationships. These are constructions that deserve to be [re]known and integrated into the structure of the new park of which it is now a part.
It is great to observe an increase year after year in the number of people who climb the hills of our capital for outdoor recreation. Within the whole range of possibilities, the Manquehue and Manquehuito Hills are favorite destinations, particularly for the inhabitants of the eastern sector of Santiago as these spots are particularly well suited for climbing, cycling, and popular walks to their summits. The quantity of people has increased so much in recent years that private entities have decided to create and manage a park in the sector, with trail markers, trail maintenance, and entrance registration. In this attempt to formalize a park, one element of the mountain range has remained forgotten and unrescued for decades though it is along the ascent route of this popular climb: the “Pircas del Manquehuito” (Stone walls of the Manquehuito), which extend for 2.3 km and are a sort of latent material heritage.
From a historical point of view, the Manquehuito mountain reminds us of the agricultural Santiago that remained until the beginning of the 20th century, a sort of remnant of work in the fields, of large estates where today we see modern urbanizations. This area presents a vestige of the times before wire, in which rock was a good option for enclosure to protect animals, mark boundaries or divide fields. In short, these walls tell us about the work of men and their rural trade, demonstrated in this construction with its clean geometry and resistant structure that has remained for decades.
A first possibility of development and integration of this element, and one that remains in evidence after walking along these walls, is the constant aim to construct on the edge of the hills. This has meant that on many occasions, the wall has had to be elevated by the steep ridges, transforming the hill itself into a wall and the rocks placed by human hands into the element that allows for a total linear continuity. Through the geometry of these walls, this element enhances the morphology of the terrain. Thus, the interdependence between the walls and the hill is evident, not as objects placed on the terrain, but as points of connection between the ground and the complete construction, clearly expressed in the materialization of those walls. What’s more, different grains can be differentiated along the walls alluding to the smallest scale of the project, a basic unit, which honestly manifests the capacity to transport and extract the elements for constructing the walls without a forced attempt at homogeneity.
After following the more than two km extension of the walls and particularly at the moment of reaching a view from the height, one can understand the multiscale nature of this element. This, in my opinion, is the greatest value of this wall: where the relationship detaches itself from its direct context and connects with distant views, when the wall ceases to be understood as such and becomes a shadow, a line that winds down the edges of a mountain range that goes into the central valley, and that by means of a simple gesture is placed in relation to our Andes. These walls materialize the concept that is common to us all, this slice that generates the contrast between the sky and our mountain range and that this forgotten wall is capable of returning to our hands.
José Antonio Rojas Lucchini is a student in the Master’s degree program of Landscape Architecture at the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile.