In one way or another the arrival of spring always reminds us of the sense of renewal. And in the case of the landscape project, this idea acquires real relevance when we remember that the landscape, defined by a strategic location first and a series of design operations later, is always becoming something, collecting its processes of ideation, materialization, growth and decay.
Alberto Orrego Luco’s painting takes us back to the state of Parque Cousiño fifteen years after Luis Cousiño, its creator and financier, officially presented it to the City Managers of Santiago in 1873. Although the focus of the work seemed to be a section of the so-called great lagoon, which then had a surface area of 30 hectares, equivalent to a fifth of the park area, the presence in the foreground of a mother and her daughter reminds us of the significance of the site’s creation: “In the midst of the period of progress and advances that the capital of the Republic is going through, there is the need for a spacious area for the recreation of its peoples. At present, Santiago, embellished with numerous buildings, lacks a place of that nature … a place where its inhabitants can enjoy the pure and free air of the countryside, and that serves, at the same time, as a meeting point for our society…” (1).
(1) Cousiño in “Sección Santiago,” El Mercurio de Valparaíso (January17, 1870), p.2.
Today, that civilizing sense of the already ex-Parque Cousiño lies in its conversion into a recreational and event platform with the concessions for a tennis club, Fantasilandia and the Movistar Arena, together with the recent or scheduled openings of an Olympic pool, a picnic area and a skatepark. We may or may not agree with the reduction of the nearly 100,000 plants that came to be planted there or the more than 8 km of originally drawn walkways, but the truth lies in the words of Cousiño and in the distracted look of the scene’s leading characters − that mother taking a break from her reading and daily duties under a shady tree. Here lies the essential characteristic that has allowed the persistence of this public park: its creation as a place capable of providing solace, offering an open field for enjoyment and recreation as well as comfort and hygiene.