The case of Roswell is an example of self-managed appropriation of terrain vagues resulting from abandoned energy infrastructure. The park is in an urban context generally lacking public spaces that integrate specific programs, such as a skatepark. This typology, which is outside of what landscape architecture conventionally understands as a park, offers an alternative way to build sites for recreation and leisure in which the occupation process itself becomes a central actor giving it its distinctive characteristic.
Located in the Las Salinas sector in Viña del Mar is a piece of land known as the former Coraceros, the same historically occupied by the oil companies Copec, Esso, Shell and Sonacol between 1920 and 2010. This land, highly desired by the real estate sector due to its strategic location, has been kept out of real estate speculation due to the presence of toxic substances from its previous occupants, forming a terrain vague pending the approval of studies that define whether it can be built on or not (1).
(1) Ignasi de Solá-Morales refers to “terrain vague” as “empty, abandoned spaces, in which a series of events have already happened […] portions of land in their expectant condition, potentially usable […] seemingly forgotten places, where the memory of the past seems to predominate over the present […] external, strange places that are left out of the circuits, of the productive structures […] industrial areas, railway stations, ports, unsafe residential areas, contaminated places, which They have become areas that can be said to be that the city is not there. They are, then, places that are outsiders within the urban system, mental exteriors within the physical interior of the city that appear as counter-images to it, both in the critical sense and in that of their posing a possible alternative”. See “Terrain Vague,” Anyplace (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1995), p.118-23.
Meanwhile, along with promises of building new green areas on the site, the local skateboarders discovered its qualities for practicing their sport. With the oil storage tanks located on the upper plateau of the land, the skateboarders have been slowly colonizing it and have baptized it as Roswell because of the saucer-shaped aspects of the remaining artifacts. Roswell now offers a place to practice this sport, given that no one has ejected the skateboarders from the site because it has basically been abandoned (2). Having this scenario as a starting point, and thanks to a series of self-financed and constructed reconditioning activities by local brands to better use the place, the popularity of Roswell has grown enormously among Vina’s community of skateboarders and also among inhabitants from other cities who have begun visiting the place to take part. In this way, over time the site has been acquiring its own identity, filling with graffiti that gives color to the existing tanks and, more importantly, installing new obstacles made by hand with concrete and metal debris, changing the appearance of site and building a new artificial topography, a characteristic component of the spaces linked to this sport.
(2) It should be noted that only in 2014, with the inauguration of the skatepark of Viña del Mar, the absence of a place to practice this sport on the central coast was remedied.
As a result, the case of Roswell is an example of self-managed appropriation of terrain vagues resulting from abandoned energy infrastructure in an urban context generally lacking public spaces for programs such as skateparks. This typology, which is outside of what landscape architecture conventionally understands as a park, offers an alternative way to build sites for recreation and leisure, in which the occupation process is central in giving the space its distinctive characteristics. Cases like this and others worldwide also linked to disused infrastructure or residual spaces, such as the Burnside Skatepark in Portland, Oregon; the FDR Skatepark in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Washington Street Skatepark in San Diego, California; and the Junk Spot in Jersey City, New Jersey, to name just a few, reaffirm the fundamental role and power of active group participation in the materialization of such sites.
By making the figure of the landscape architect as an absolute designer invisible, examples such as Viña del Mar allow collective, progressive and organic creation over time, giving rise to a type of landscape architecture that, at least in the case of Roswell, could be termed as alien.
Joaquín Cerda D’apremont. is an architect and holds a Master’s degree in Landscape Architecture from the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile(2015).