The history of the search for a possible location for the National Stadium of Santiago, Chile is a synthesis of our characteristic lack of urban vision for the future. This column shows how the “Ñuñoa facility” could have been located in Renca, in the Cousiño Park, in the Quinta Normal and even in the current Lo Contador Campus of the Pontifical Catholic University.
While any mythology surrounding the National Stadium of Santiago, Chile is settled in the serious research-thesis-book by architect Valentina Rosas K. Ni tan Elefante, Ni Tan Blanco: Arquitectura, Urbanismo y Política en la Trayectoria del Estadio Nacional (Neither an Elephant, nor so White: Architecture, Urbanism and Politics in the Trajectory of the National Stadium) RiL Editores, 2014, I think it is interesting to bring up an aspect of history that was, to some extent, decisive in the development of our capital: the decision on its location.
We know that the history of the “Ñuñoa facility” begins in March 1909, when a group of sports clubs and educational establishments held their first protest on the Alameda to demand the inclusion of sports activities in school curricula, the liberation of Customs duties for sporting goods, and the construction of playgrounds and a National Stadium (1). Just seven years later, the first stone of the stadium was laid, but a little further north of its current location, specifically, at hectare 15 of the Chacra El Mirador. That land, located to the southeast of Renca Hill and southwest of the Chile Racecourse, was at the same time adjacent to the Renca Station. It was in an area accessible by rail that connected to other important public spaces, such as the Quinta Normal of Agriculture, the Parque Forestal, the Equestrian Club and the Cousiño Park. Chronicles of the time report that the land was owned by the National Sports Federation and that the ceremony of November 1916 was attended by President Juan Luis Sanfuentes, the Ministers of Finance and Public Instruction and “distinguished personalities of the political and social world”(2).
(1) Consejo de Monumentos Nacionales (ed.)(National Monuments Council (ed.), Tres Miradas al Estadio Nacional de Chile: Historia · Deporte · Arquitectura (Three Views of the National Stadium of Chile: History · Sports · Architecture) Santiago: Ministerio de Educación, 2004, p.17.
(2) T., “El Estadio Nacional,” Revista Zig-Zag Vol.12:612 (Nov. 11, 1916).
The next news we have about a possible location for the sports venue is found only in March 1935, along with the development of the Architecture Pre-project Competition for the “future National Stadium,” without a specific site, in which the winner is the team of Aníbal Fuentealba, Alberto Cormatches and Ricardo Müller (3). Two locations were being considered for the construction of the chosen project: the Ellipse of the Cousiño Park, considered more suitable for being in the urban radius and for its consequent easy accessibility, and the old Renca site, less suitable for the “urbanization expense [which would be necessary to carry out in] this community, the arrangement of bridges and, above all, [for] the need to bring drinking water from Santiago, which would mean 10 million pesos more of expenses”(4).
(3) “Dos Arquitectos de la Caja de Seguro Obligatorio Triunfan en el Concurso de Proyectos de Estadio Nacional,” (Two Architects from the Insurance Fund Triumph in the National Stadium Competition) Revista Acción Social 44 (1935), p.71-72.
(4) ibid.” p.72.
In November 1935 − and in the midst of a persistent debate in the Congress, always so worried about the key issues of national events − the former Mayor of Santiago Alberto Mackenna Subercaseaux added a new possible place to the discussion: the Chakra de Lo Contador at the foot of Cerro San Cristóbal, where the Faculty of Architecture, Design and Urban Studies of the Pontifical Catholic University is located today. His arguments, not insignificant by the way, included a vision of the future Santiago, where “the neighborhood of Providencia and Los Leones” would become an urban development center and where the Mapocho River could be transformed into the center of “the sports of swimming, rowing and regattas ” − a statement that evokes the position of those who have advocated in the last two decades for a Navigable Mapocho (5).
(5) “La Mejor Ubicación para el Estadio,”(The Best Location for the Stadium) El Mercurio (Nov. 6, 1935), p.23.
In January 1936, an agreement of the Congress was announced not to build the stadium in Cousiño Park and, having ruled out the sites of Renca and at the foot of the San Cristóbal, the search for land on the outskirts of the city began, naming options such as Peñalolén, Apoquindo “and such a picturesque site as the upper part of Santiago, [which] can provide lovely grounds for the Stadium” − a fact that the Catholic University Sports Club must have had in mind when it sold the old Stadium of Santa Rosa along the banks of the Mapocho, moving in the 90s to San Carlos de Apoquindo (6). However, by Supreme Decree No. 3640 of the Ministry of Public Education, on May 19, 1935, the construction of the stadium in the Quinta Normal was authorized, specifically at hectare 23 of the School of Agronomy and Agricultural Practice of the University of Chile.
(6) “El Futuro Estadio Nacional,”(The Future National Stadium) Urbanismo y Arquitectura Vol.1:1 (January 1936), p.31.
Then, having ruled out the land of the Quinta Normal, and without much evidence as to why, on January 9, 1937 a new Supreme Decree was issued in which the Workers’ Insurance Fund transferred to the Land Treasury the area corresponding to the Lo Valdivieso and Lo Encalada farms in Ñuñoa in exchange for paving and drinking-water works in surrounding areas of that area (7). This begins the story described by Rosas K .: a 61 hectare Master Plan for the site that was not made concrete, even when it was entered into the municipal file along with the plans of the stadium; the addition of 3 additional hectares to the land in 1953; and the presentation in 1959, 1971, 1973, 1982, 1985, 1997, 2004, 2008 and 2012 of new plans for the site that, if implemented, would only partially be materialized.
(7) National Monuments Council, p.27
The history of the search for a possible location for the National Stadium of Santiago, Chile is a synthesis of our characteristic lack of urban vision for the future. Until today notable public spaces suffer progressive, inadequate and uncontrolled interventions by the authorities of the day and slowly communities considered peripheral to our capital, such as Renca, are being subjected to possibilities of transformation from tactical interventions, such as the conversion of their hill into a public park. Thus, if we finally understand that the development of spaces of “public and popular” use − and consequently, a program − is an opportunity to transform and renovate less consolidated sites and usually those of difficult accessibility, then we could expand the future possibilities of a city that has not abandoned its expansive growth, generating social tools to be used by those who need them most: the citizens.