The architecture firms of Kunckel Associates and Stefan Gzyl joined forces under the Glocalstudio platform to develop their entry to the recently completed ideas competition for La Carlota park in Caracas, Venezuela. They propose that the new park is an opportunity for a lot more than supplying a quantifiable amount of park space: they understand it as an opportunity for the (re)foundation of the city. The park will become the city’s new vital nucleus, a space from which to (re)conquest and (re)claim a preexisting and often hostile territory. In a city in which nature is in constant decline and hardly available as public space, the 100 hectare military airfield site constitutes a unique chance for a metropolitan-scale park in the very heart of the city. More images and architects’ description after the break.
The metaphor of the (re)foundation, however, does not imply tabula rasa but aims at reconnecting reality with possibility, recognizing that some things should not only be better, but fundamentally different. In this sense, the new park should become an agent of change, positively promoting a new way of relating to the city as a whole. The first act of appropriation of a space now foreign and excluded from the city will be the elimination of all physical barriers that isolate it from the city. This date will be marked and become a new anniversary in Caracas’s history. The city will be not only be witness but participate in its transformation. The urban dweller will partake in both the park’s growth and the diffusion of nature beyond its borders; a process that we propose is key to reactivate a sense of belonging and identification with the city.
How (and where) to produce the amount of nature a 100-hectare park requires? In the face of the city’s inability to provide it with nature the park will have to produce its own natural condition, from the procurement of water, to soil regeneration, to the production of plants and animals. These processes will be made visible and determine the experience of the park as well as its phased growth and expansion. Production of nature (Production circles) The deployment of circular production units aims at maximizing and effectively organizing plant production in the park’s initial phases. These large spatial structures will define the park’s landscape and its spatial image, transforming themselves over time with the programmatic needs of the park.
Plants grown within these production units will find their way to their final location in the park once they reach a certain size. The surplus of this production will be used for reforestation and replanting beyond the park’s limits. In time, the park will supply nature not only for itself but also for the city, ensuring the survival of both. Instead of demolishing existing hangars and military barracks, we propose these structures be recycled and incorporated to the park, as spaces in which the production of nature (both plants and animals) requires a greater degree of control.
The programmed perimeter: the park’s articulation and integration with the city is resolved in the most generous manner: through the elimination of all barriers and bridging of all gaps for the construction of a permeable pedestrian border. The perimeter acts as a flexible mediator with the city. It is activated by those active and changeable program elements which the city demands so as to free the park from such burdens (sport and educational facilities, cultural institutions, , amphitheaters, services, public transportation, re-routing of existing streets). The park proposes a change of paradigm from a car-based and car-oriented urbanism to a pedestrian-centered model. In a city in which the car rules, the private vehicle is completely excluded from the site.
Water: Over 90% of the water Caracas consumes comes from far-away sources, demanding enormous amounts of energy (25% of the total consumption) for its pumping and transportation in both horizontal and vertical distances. The city’s underground aquifers are drying up and rainwater is not retained or reused. Water is a scarce and expensive resource. Initially, the project proposes drilling three deep water wells to tap into the city’s aquifer for the park’s basic irrigation needs. An intermediate-term plan (10 years) anticipates the incorporation and treatment of streams currently passing under the park carrying wastewater from nearby residential areas, thus allowing for the generation of the first wetland ecosystems. A long-term goal of the project is the construction of a water-treatment plant, as part of both a metropolitan plan to treat the Guaire river (presently an open air sewer crossing the city) and an opportunity to include large water surfaces within the park.
Light and shade: within the large variety of settings the park offers, the construction of landscape revolves around the tension between light and shade typical of tropical latitudes: light as the space of encounter and event and the shade as the space for pause and refuge.
The landing strip: The site’s origin and its successive transformations until the present revolve around its use as an airport and military base. The setting of concerts, political rallies and coup d’états, it is a key element in the memory of the city. Beyond its symbolic value, it is a space of unparalleled dimensions in almost any urban context (a straight line 50 meters wide by 2 km long). The landing strip becomes the only permanent element in a ever-changing setting, the space from which to witness the park’s transformation. It is the metropolitan gathering platform par excellence, a space understood and lived through the events that take place on it.
Architects: Glocalstudio (Kunckel Associates + Stefan Gzyl) Location: Caracas, Venezuela Team: Architecture, landscape and planning – Béla Kunckel, Stefan Gzyl, Eumilis Arellano, Juan Manuel Mendoza, Donat Szakmary, Bernadette Guzmán, Fabiana Paluszny, Alan Miliken, Josymar Rodríguez, Katherine Fernández, Yoryelina Moreno, Yanfe Pedroza, Nicolle Hazard, Iván González Viso, Gabriela Hernández, Adriana Rodríguez Consultants: : Mark Landsell (Hidrology), Eudaldo Vila (Transportation), Hermes Olmos (Biology and Botany) Status: Honorable mention Area: 100 Hectares (247 acres) Year: 2012