Woven Landscapes
Romy Hecht Marchant For Lofscapes
(1) Francisco Luis Besa, Plano de la Chimba. (Map of the Chimba) the Mapocho Valley, delivered to the court of the Royal Audience on  August 26, 1641 

With the conversation “The Landscape before the Landscape: The Incan Santiago” between archeologist Rubén Stehberg L. and architect Emilio de la Cerda E., the cycle of dialogues “Discovering the Chilean Landscape” continues, organized by The Landscape Culture Corporation. Each dialogue of this first version is an attempt to understand and appreciate our landscape, perceived as the result of the interaction between nature and human settlements and as an opportunity to develop tomorrow’s identity and heritage.

This Thursday, April 27, the cycle of dialogues “Discovering the Chilean Landscape,” organized by the Landscape Culture Corporation in Chile ( has the objective of building new landscape narratives in Chile capable of identifying and representing fragments of the past, revealing some of the stories that our landscape tells.

In this second dialogue, Rubén Stehberg graduate in Prehistory and Archeology and PhD in Natural Sciences, archeologist of the National Museum of Natural History, who throughout his long career as a researcher has documented the Inca occupation in Chile’s central valley, conversed with Emilio de la Cerda architect, who holds a Master’s degree in Architecture and is the current Director of the School of Architecture of the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile.  Emilio has reflected extensively on the construction and transformation of Chilean heritage, particularly thanks to his role as Executive Secretary of the Council of National Monuments (2011-2014). Rubén and Emilio conversed about the scope of the landscape’s configuration in the Mapocho valley thanks to the early Inca culture’s occupation and its network of roads. This conversation led to an understanding of Santiago’s landscape as the result of the reuse of the base infrastructure that served as the definition of the future Spanish colonial landscape.  

Based on the results of research carried out jointly with Gonzalo Sotomayor (RIP) and published in 2012, Stehberg explained the characteristics that the Tawantinsuyu occupation had in the Mapocho valley, demonstrating the strategic importance that the valley of the Mapocho held in the Inca organization. The idea was supported by findings − tombs and human remains, pottery shards, aryballos and vases, along with the remains of constructions − that have demonstrated the majority of the empire’s institutions in the valley, in addition to the existence of a main administrative center around what today is occupied by the Plaza de Armas. Early colonial documentation such as the chronicles of the Diego de Almagro’s expedition of 1536 and other manuscripts of Pedro de Valdivia indicate they were received by a Governor [of the royal family of Cusco] who was called Quilicanta. This idea led to explaining how the presence of the Spanish authorities increased the indigenous decision to migrate south after the conquest of Peru, which gave the valley a multicultural and multi-ethnic status, organized around the urban Tawantinsuyu center.  From this center, systems of connectivity unfolded based on a strategy of settling in fragile areas (where Lampa and Colina are today in the northern section of the valley) using the Qhapaq  Nan complex of roads to increase hydrologically based agriculture, mining, and the introduction of symbolic elements.  Further discussion showed how the Spanish conquerers took over this territory and its inhabitants, to the point that Pedro de Valdivia claimed the majority of the northern area to control accessibility and irrigation for the city of Santiago.   

Undoubtedly one of the highlights of the dialogue was to demonstrate that the entire upper eastern edges of the Valley of the Mapocho, specifically Apoquindo, Tobalaba and Peñalolén, Ñuñoa, were irrigated by large irrigation canals during the Inca period.  The system’s intake would have been at the height of El Arrayán or Las Condes, which also shows how the territory was diversified into complexes of agricultural production or small farms. From this, the conventional idea that Santiago’s landscape was colonial has less credence.  The landscape instead can be visualized and described based on the configuration of space where the Inca culture located sites with geographical determinants, for example today’s Quebrada de Ramón. In maps from 1605, one can see the series of small hills of Chacabuco, along which the Inca Trail entered the basin, leaving by the Angostura hills and where the union of both points is a straight line with its mid-point at the Plaza de Armas, where currently Independence Avenue arrives to the plaza by Puente Street.

The cycle of dialogues, “Discovering the Chilean Landscape” continues on Thursday June 8 with the landscape architect and Director of the Landscape Architecture program at Harvard University Anita Berrizbeitia and the architect and PhD in Theory of Art Amarí Peliowski, who will discuss postcolonial landscape in Latin America. The sessions will be held in the Auditorium of the PUC School of Architecture, El Comendador 1936, 4th floor. Free to the public, limited space available. Registration:

Organized by Landscape Culture Corporation of Chile in collaboration with Master’s Program in Landscape Architecture UC/School of Architecture UC /LOFscapes /Santiago Adicto.

Additional Bibliography: Rubén Stehberg, ‘La fortaleza de Chena y su relación con la ocupación incaica de Chile central’(The Fortifying of Chena and its relationship with the Incan occupation of central Chile) , Publicación ocasional Nº23, Museo de Historia Natural (Santiago, 1976) <> · Stehberg and Gonzalo Sotomayor, ‘Mapocho Incaico’, Boletín del Museo de Historia Natural 61 (Santiago, 2012), pp. 85–149 <> · Stehberg, Sotomayor and Juan Carlos Cerda, ‘Mapocho Incaico Norte’ (Incan Mapocho North), Boletín del Museo de Historia Natural 65 (Santiago, 2016), pp. 109–135 <>

(2–4) Dialogue 2 ‘Descubriendo el Paisaje Chileno’ (Discovering the Chilean Landscape) June 27, 2017 © Verónica Aguirre L. for LOFscapes

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