In this week’s Cycle route, we invite you to visit a section of Tobalaba Avenue where you can see how to value the role of infrastructure as a structuring element of the landscape.
According to Anita Berritzbeitia, infrastructure can be understood as a landscape construction operation: “The operation of the infrastructure disrupts the opposition between culture and nature which posits the landscape as an unbuilt, original condition…. These built landscapes are not nostalgic: they do not refer to a lost nature. They acquire the spatial and functional characteristics of the places onto which they are grafted. ” And under that graft condition, Berrizbeitia tells us, “grafts leave seams but remain evident” (1).
(1) Anita Berrizbeitia and Linda Pollak, Inside Outside: Between Architecture and Landscape (Gloucester, Mass.: Rockport Publishers, 1999), p.152-53.
Extending approximately 17 km, Tobalaba Avenue covers the eastern sector of the Santiago Valley at the foot of the Andes mountains. It begins at Av. Apoquindo (bordering the communities of Providencia and Las Condes) and ends at Cerro Chequén (in La Florida). This avenue, accompanied on its eastern edge by the San Carlos Canal, has a privileged location between the city plan and the mountains, in which the linear park that accompanies it acts like a seam between streets, neighborhoods and communities. Both Av. Tobalaba and the San Carlos Canal are infrastructures that have arisen as an operation over an expanding territory, conceived in an effort to bring together, anticipate and catalyze the development of urban events in order to cultivate and connect the valley from north to south.
Our route starts at Av. Apoquindo, crossing the paths that make up the park’s border between Tobalaba Avenue and Mariano Sánchez Fontecilla Street, then joins an existing bike path, which begins at Av. Francisco de Bilbao until arriving to Av. Fernando Castillo Velasco (or Av. Larraín in La Reina), which is paved and has a width varying between 1.7 and 2.3 m.
Alternating between the eastern and western edge of the canal, according to the possibilities of accessing a clear path, the route extends for 5.5 km, i.e. one third of the total extension of the avenue. This is an elevated route that runs parallel to the San Carlos Canal, which positions us on a neighborhood scale, but, at the same time, allows a visual relationship to be established with the immediate context at a distance from the busy and often congested Av Tobalaba. Along the way, we find places to stop and rest under the shade of poplars and eucalyptus, with sectors established for exercise and with a variety of plant species, recognizable not only by their structure and physical form, but also by their characteristic aroma that accompanies us along some sections of the route. Here we can find species of acacias, among them espinos (Acacia caven) and varieties of legumes, to mention only a few. Likewise, the route is equipped with bicycle rental stations and a repair shop on the road near Av. Francisco de Bilbao. It connects with the bike paths of Callao, Montenegro, Pocuro and Isabel la Católica and with the metro stations of Line 4. Along the way, we can find a tempting offer of homemade bread arriving at Las Carretas Street or we might encounter the Sunday fruit and vegetable market in full swing at the intersection of Tobalaba and Castillo Velasco Avenues (2).
(2) See attached map © Francisca Salas P. for LOFscapes
Tobalaba Avenue and the canal form an infrastructure system that over time has consolidated a system of parks that accompany its route, giving way to the emergence of activities and forms of urban appropriation in its surroundings until finally establishing themselves as elements of territory management at the park, neighborhood, and city level. The foregoing then suggests that an understanding of infrastructure can lead to the creation and emergence of permanent spaces for recreation, strengthening a link between infrastructure elements and the processes that surround them, i.e. among avenues, streets, vegetation, water systems, and urbanization processes. In this context, we can talk about infrastructure as a landscape catalyst, as a way to program a place, where urban organization, customs and ways of life meet and combine.