Behind the Image

Valparaíso Cultural Park, Chile

Lionel Eid, George Garofalakis, Rosie Garvey and Alice Raggett

Openness: The large interior space has been cleared of all light structures and greened, with only the prison building, gatehouse and historic Powder Keg retained. Alternative proposals for the complex’s refurbishment placed new developments within the space, whereas the aim of this scheme was to maximise open space for the city.

Inner edge: Due to its previous functions as a fort and prison, the internal edges of the Cultural Park are hermetic as opposed to active or porous. Rather than feeling oppressive, the enclosure creates a calm oasis separated from the chaotic city outside. Walls become a feature of the space with each boundary given different functions, from green walls to displays for mural and graffiti art.

Climate: Several elements have been designed in response to the climatic conditions of Valparaiso. Trees have been given elegant supports to protect them from heavy winds alongside mechanical sculptures designed to move in the hilltop breeze.

Inclusive: The park is appropriated by different users and feels open and uncurated. The incorporation of informal community facilities such as raised planting beds, greenhouses and gathering areas allows spaces to be incrementally adapted.

Routes: Discontinuous pathways lead visitors to particular spaces rather than through the park. These are intended for slow movement and encourage people to dwell. Informal tracks reflecting latent desire lines are retained, adding to the variety of routes available.

Relationship with the city: The Cultural Park occupies a large plateau nestled in the sloping hills of Valparaíso. Elevated neighbourhoods have views into this oasis but vistas from the park towards the Pacific waterfront are rare due to the site’s enclosed perimeter.

Reflection: The external edges of the complex maintain the historically defensive and inward-looking character of the compound. However, walls that previously existed to confine, now provide a space of contemplation and respite from the surrounding city.

URBAN DESIGN 151 Summer 2019 Publication Urban Design Group

As featured in URBAN DESIGN 151 Summer 2019

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The transformation of a prison compound into a city park with associated artist studios, a theatre and social centre open to the public.

In each issue of Behind the Image, one of our contributors visits a contemporary public space from around the world. The photography tries to reveal an alternative perspective on a familiar precedent, famous space or place. These images illustrate how the public space works in practice: exploring its features (designed and unintended), and the way it relates to the surrounding context.