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Relationship with Riverbanks

Jimena Martignoni

Fluvial Park, which was recently renamed Family Park, is definitely unique in Santiago de Chile because of its new physical, visual and conceptual relationship with the riverbanks.

Photo: Felipe Díaz Contardo




The city of Santiago de Chile stretches out at the foot of the Andes and is crossed by a canalized river from east to west. The city has evolved along the banks of the Mapocho River, a local landmark with a major historical significance. In 2012, after decades of increasing pollution, a rehabilitation program called “Mapocho Urbano Limpio” (“Clean Urban Mapocho”) was initiated. The program, managed by Aguas Andinas (the largest water supply company in Chile), successfully managed thorough decontamination and clean-up of the river.

In this context and in line with the tradition of public parks being situated along riverbanks in Santiago, the new Fluvial Park emerges as a unique project situated by the Mapocho River. Originally, this park was supposed to form part of a much larger urban project within the scope of the Bicentennial Projects to “make the river navigable”. It however proved to be more feasible and realistic to start the river transformation by focusing on a single area, in a district with very few public green spaces.

Bring the river closer to the people

The vacant area, located in western Santiago in a district mostly devoted to industrial developments, extends along one kilometer and borders on a very well established park in the city, providing a clear continuity of green spaces in front of the river. Nonetheless, the project incorporates two new urban situations: firstly, the creation of a large adjacent water surface for recreational use and “to bring the river closer to the people”, secondly the construction of artificial architectural green slopes to define the borders and areas of the park. The contrast between the geometrical design of the slopes and the natural organic lines of the traditional parks in Santiago gives this topography an innovative appearance.
Dirt and debris that had accumulated on the site over the years were utilized for the construction of the slopes.

The flow of the river

The highest point of this series of slopes corresponds to that of the city cycling route, Mapocho 42K. In the park, the elevated bike trail overlooks the river and the mountains to the north and at the opposite side, the lagoon as well as the park’s pathway and vegetation. The pathway is an elaborate network, which allows visitors to walk along the banks, up and down the different slopes and across bridges that have been constructed to keep all of the spaces easily connected.
The landscape plan was predominantly laid out with groundcovers and succulents, while large trees were utilized to outline larger areas, borders and a pedestrian avenue connecting the access plaza. Composed mostly of native species with low water consumption, the planting list also provides a wide range of seasonal colors.
The central lagoon, a large on-site water reservoir, serves as a water supply for the site’s irrigation. Part of the river was diverted by integration of an inflatable rubber diversion dam directing the water into the reservoir after a sedimentation process using an underground filter system. The water can be returned depending on the flow of the river and the water levels of the reservoir.

Various uses both during the day and at night

The agencies and governmental areas involved in the project carried out environmental impact assessments. Furthermore, in collaboration with the designers, the Ministry of Public Works emphasized the paramount importance of the site’s social aspect. The program includes soccer fields, administration offices, service areas, water facilities and an affordable paddleboat rental. A large access plaza provides room for public events and fairs and one of the slopes can accommodate a large audience for free concerts and performance art. Custom-designed concrete benches, placed into the terrain, border seating areas as well as play areas for children.
The lighting plan was carefully designed for each of the spaces on the site and their various possible uses both during the day and at night.

Fluvial Park, which was recently renamed Family Park, is definitely unique in Santiago de Chile because of its new physical, visual and conceptual relationship with the riverbanks and, especially, with the river water. With regard to urban adaptation and renovation processes, this could be considered as a pioneering and positive sign; however, innovative ideas always come with strong commitment. Profoundly responsible decisions, procedures and monitoring actions are the actual signs, which would make any urban intervention of this kind highly positive. Time will tell.

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Location: Santiago de Chile, Chile
Designers: BOZA ARQUITECTOS (Cristián Boza D., Cristián Boza W., Diego Labbé, Eduardo Ruiz-Risueño, Michel Carles Tapia)
Landscape designers: Pamela Olate, Pilar Lozano, Cecilia Vergara
Lighting plan: Paulina Villalobos, Pamela Padruno
Client: Ministry of Public Works, Government of Chile
Area: 20 hectares
Date of completion (last stage, lighting): 2017
Photography: Felipe Díaz Contardo / Guy Werbourne / María Cirano