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American Society of Landscape Architects

 

July 2006 Issue

From Rubble, A Park For The People
In Buenos Aires, where open space along the waterfront is hard to find, a design team crafts a park out of rubble and hands-on labor.

By Brian Davis

FROM RUBBLE, A PARK FOR THE PEOPLE Courtesy Vicente López

At Arenales Park the horizon is endless. The park is one of the few places in Buenos Aires, Argentina, where you can see that line where the water and the sky come together. The park seems secondary, just a few interesting architectural pieces placed on an open strip of land.

Arenales Park is the fifth stage of El Paseo de la Costa (the River Coast Walk), a major urban project undertaken in Vicente López, the municipality located immediately to the north of Buenos Aires proper, to reopen the coast of the Río de la Plata to the people. The River Coast Walk is one of several independent projects throughout greater Buenos Aires, including the Parque Micaela Bastidas located at the southern edge of Buenos Aires (see “Tango Nuevo,” Landscape Architecture, April 2004), that are intended to create public spaces along the Río de la Plata. Creating public spaces along the coast to reopen the waterfront is a trend Argentina shares with the United States and Europe.

The Río de la Plata is the widest river in the world; from Buenos Aires it is nearly 25 miles to the opposite coast. As a result of this distance, Buenos Aires grew along the coast and inland as opposed to spanning the river like many U.S. and European cities. While the city was founded as a port by the Spanish in 1566, the importance of the coast decreased over the next 400 years as Buenos Aires expanded away from the river.

Up until the 1950s, the coast of Vicente López was open to the public and used for swimming, fishing, and relaxing. By 1966, when Argentina became a military dictatorship, powerful private interests such as yachting clubs and private companies were annexing pieces of the coast that had previously been public space. By 1980, the coast was all private property, trash piles, or military installations; public use of the coast was marginalized and the river was largely forgotten.

In 1983, Argentina once again became a democracy, and the people started asking for more public space. Local municipalities throughout Buenos Aires began investigating possibilities for creating vital public spaces.

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