Another day, another starry-eyed vision of a tree-studded linear park geared to reclaim urban space and open it up to pedestrians — and cyclists, skaters, pram-pushers and the wheelchair-enabled.
This one, Cultural Corridor Chapultepec, comes from Mexico City, a vibrant megalopolis that’s come along way from its days as soot-covered poster child of urban pollution and congestion. The plan proposes a leafy .8-mile stretch of public space (terraces, water features, gardens, shops, cafes and shade-providing trees aplenty) where everyone, no matter how they propel themselves or at what speed they move at, would get their own designated lane.
The park itself would be plopped down in the middle of — and rise above — one of the city’s oldest and busiest streets: the 10-lane Avenida Chapultepec, a bustling highway dating back to 1532 that extends, west to east, from Latin America’s crown jewel green space, the 1,695 acre Chapultepec Park, toward the city center. The park would terminate at the Glorieta de los Insurgentes, a huge traffic roundabout.
As far as roads go, pre-Hispanic Avenida Chapultepec is rich with history and heartache, innovation and experimentation. Originally an ancient Aztec thoroughfare, the street was once joined by an 18th century aqueduct, a 160-arch marvel of engineering that conveyed water to the heart of the growing city. Crumbling remnants of the old aqueduct remain today and will be incorporated into the new park.
In 1900, Avenida Chapultepec become home to Mexico City’s inaugural streetcar line. Several decades later, in 1972, it welcomed the city’s first subway system. The street has also served as the backdrop for foreign invasions (the Mexican-American War of 1847) and bloody student uprising (1968’s Tlatelolco massacre).
More recently, Avenida Chapultepec, which divides the nightlife-centric neighborhood of Zona Rosa, long the center of Mexico’s LGBT community, and the bohemian Roma-Condesa districts, has more or less played therole of clogged artery: a complete traffic nightmare in which cars — not people — rule the landscape. Similar to New York City’s newly reopened High Bridge, Cultural Corridor Chapultepec would link two distinct neighborhoods that, in this case, have been severed by gridlocked vehicular traffic.
The multimodal Cultural Corridor Chapultepec — while High Line comparisons are inevitable, it’s more akin to the Seoul Skygarden or Miami’s proposed Underline trail — doesn’t set out to erase the road’s history nor make cars completely disappear.
Rather, the stunning new park — conceived by lauded Mexican starchitect Fernando Romero of FR-EE in collaboration with firms RVDG and FRENTE — would continue the history of innovation along Avenida Chapultepec … it would just rearrange and decrease the current number of vehicle lanes to a minimum — “pushed to the sides” as the architects puts it — while making ample room for alternative means of transport within a spacious, street-level path in the middle.
A section of this central path would be topped with an elevated pedestrian promenade lined with places to snack/shop/socialize along with varied cultural and recreational spaces including a puppet theater, outdoor cinema, aqueduct exhibition and areas dedicated to dancing and ping-pong. Space would also be reclaimed for dedicated bus lanes.
Explain the architects:
The upper level will have retail and a promenade for pedestrians with a carefully designed green landscape. There has been a special focus in the selection of the flora according to the urban context: it will not only provide shade to the public, but it will also have a crucial impact in mitigating the “heat island” effect. For the irrigation and services, recycled rainwater will be used. Electrical energy will be provided by solar cells. The bubble decks of recycled PET will yield a positive thermic and structural impact.
Essentially, Cultural Corridor Chapultepec — a “road to heal the diminished urban tissue” — wouldn’t completely reclaim Avenida Chapultepec but flip the numbers.
Romero, who is also working on the design of Mexico City's fancy new airport alongside Foster + Partners, explains to Designboom: “The term ‘Complete Street’ means to reshape the traffic flow and the public spaces. This project inverts the numbers: if nowadays, 70 percent of the area belongs to cars, and 30 percent to the pedestrians, the Cultural Corridor Chapultepec is going to change these numbers by generating a new space in order to have 70 percent belong to the pedestrians and the remaining 30 percent for the organization of the traffic space.”
Promising “accessibility for all,” other highlights of Cultural Corridor Chapultepec include free wireless Internet, 24-hour security, double the number of existing trees along the street and “cultural activities without cost.” The 452,000-square-foot park is also reportedly underwritten by private investors. (It's worth noting that Romero's father-in-law is none other than Carlos Slim, the billionaire business magnate who frequently tops "richest man in the world" rankings alongside Warren Buffet and Bill Gates).
“Your taxes will not be used to pay for this project, nor will borrow your city,” explains the project website while noting that Cultural Corridor Chapultepec will generate roughly 5,500 new jobs both direct and indirect.
Construction on the park is expected conclude in 2017.
Adds Romero: “One of the conditions that characterizes our city is the diversity that exists on a cultural level, on an urban level and on an architectonic level. The park should celebrate these three conditions: human diversity, cultural diversity and architectonic diversity. The park should connect us with the history of the city and launch public space towards the future.”
Via [Designboom], [Dezeen]