(Video: Camila Romero I. / Editing and Photography: Verónica Aguirre L. and Camila Romero I. / Text: Romy Hecht M.)

Publication date: 26.01.16

Agustín Ross Park in Pichilemu demonstrates a problem central to the concept of landscape: Can an urban site be called a park just because it is open,  public and planned?

Historically, parks have been recognized as sites to improve urban habitability, positioning themselves as open spaces for contemplation, public recreation and mitigation of social problems. In this sense, if over time the garden has been transformed into a domestic horticultural laboratory providing exotic species and plants with grafts and a hybridization of shapes, types, colors, the park, meanwhile, has become an opportunity to incorporate trees, grasses, bushes that emerge in tangible opposition to the rigors of overcrowded, gray cities.

In contrast to the above, parks are complex urban sites that have been − and will continue to be − designed and constructed many times over time. As a result, these sites contain an integrated collection of traces − geological, programmatic, botanical, and architectural − of their previous histories, contributing to their current spatial condition. Nowadays, one of the most dynamic aspects of parks is the way in which society occupies them, which in turn reflects potential conflicts between the aspirations of a community and the intentions of park designers. 

Within this story, the so-called Agustín Ross Park is undoubtedly an anomaly. Nothing other than some of its centenarian palms trees Phoenix canariensis offer an account of its transformation process beginning in 1885, the year of its inauguration, probably as the public garden of the ex-Casino of the same name. Nothing apart from the aforementioned planting − a reflection of the nineteenth-century intention to preserve native species − accounts for some degree of intentionality in its design. How did the site become what it is today? What urban networks are associated with it and how? What is the nature of its surrounding environment? What are the degrees of persistence of its organizational strategy? The inability to answer these questions is a clear signal that perhaps we should talk about this site as a municipal garden rather than as a park.


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