REVEALED RESILIENCE: AN EXTENTION
OF ROBERTO BURLE MARX’S PARQUE DEL ESTE
This project considers the development of
a new park on the 42.6 acre parcel of land to the immediate
east of Roberto Burle Marx’s
Parque del Este in the urban center of Caracas, Venezuela. The new
park’s design is launched by two ecological concepts that
emerge from the distinctive ways Burle Marx used plant material
in Parque del Este:
- Plant material is used to display different ecological regions
in Venezuela as a measure of adaptive resilience. This notion
of adaptive resilience is more specifically expressed as one finds
the same plant growing in a variety of microclimatic conditions.
- Plant material outside of this ecological framework is introduced
as a gradient mediator of texture and color between these displays.
This project initially adopts the concept of gradient and applies
it to an urban scale as it serves as a 1- formal, 2- programmatic,
3- hydrologic, 4- spatial and 5-ecologic mediator between Parque
del Este and the changing fabric of the surrounding city. Nested
within this larger framework are more intricate gradients of sub
surface engagement and plant management that are tied to the notion
Gradients in combination with revealed resilience offer potential
for the new park, as an eastern corner and extention of Parque del
Este, to accept cultural meaning for contemporary Venezuela. They
also offer hopeful metaphors for a people whose history has been
and will continue to be resilient.
Roberto Burle Marx’s Parque del Este emerged in Caracas
at a time of initial Venezuelan democratization, immediately before
the oil boom and a period of immense wealth. Its bold and innovative
display of plant material, curvilinear formal language, and cultural
context cumulatively caused Parque del Este to serve not only as
a park, but also as a symbol of the Venezuela’s modern identity.
Today the park is used by thousands on a weekly
basis and powerfully serves to equalize visitors from a population
marked by a disparity of wealth. The excessive use of the park, while socially wonderful,
has rendered the park’s physical condition as old and worn.
The absence of a maintenance strategy has meant the death, without
replacement, of many plant species within the park’s ecological
collections. On the northern and western sides of proposed
park two major lines of vehicular transportation sever the site
from two changing middle and working class neighborhoods marked
by recreation centers, museums, and proposals for new plazas and infrastructure
re-orderings. The land on which the proposed park sits will
pass into government hands within the next 5-15 years. Its significant
context demands that its development is considered carefully.
This project offers a programmatic solution of plaza-park-nursery
hybrid to address the pragmatic needs of the existing Parque
del Este as well as those of the surrounding urban neighborhood.
An initial formal strategy for intervention
compresses and attenuates the formal language of Roberto
Burle Marx’s curvilinear, circulatory loops to create a contemporary field condition of undulating
circulatory and planted linear strips. Within these strips
a newly planted, seasonally dynamic, savannah takes advantage of an existing
wet site and makes a bold new addition to the ecological
displays of the existing Parque del Este.
A new eastern corner and extension of the park embraces the need
for constant urban engagement and maintenance. New connections and
a new programmatic gradient are created between an urban plaza to
a nursery to an existing lushly planted park. An associated urban
strategy calls for an extension of this gradient out from the plaza
to a recreational community center to newly activated neighborhoods.
A hydrologic gradient begins with Caracas:
a city whose natural water sources are channelized and hidden
by massive infrastructure. The gradient continues with a park edge of dry xerophytic nursery,
to a habitually watered and misted nursery, to a seasonally
wet landscape, and finally to the park’s existing interior of
aquatic garden and lushly planted forest. Spatial gradients
are created by the densification and loosening of tree drifts
that overlap and mediate between different topographic areas of the park.
The more intricate gradient of sub-surface engagement is significant
in that it is tied to the notion of resilience. From the corner
plaza, where a paved surface peels from the ground to become an
entry building, to nursery paths where surfaces peel to become greenhouses,
to nursery paths that push into the ground to reveal plant root
conditions (containerized or not), to deep subsurface cuts in the
seasonally dynamic savannah areas, park visitors are able to engage
with the ecological dynamism of plant growth, roots, and ground,
which they commonly own.
Resilience is also revealed in gradients of plant management. From
the strictly maintained container nursery, which feeds new plants
to the existing worn park, to the new display of savannah plants
and grasses that are resilient as they shift from dry to lush conditions;
ecological processes serve as hopeful metaphors. The design itself
can also serve as a strategy of resilience in that it can shrink
or expand botanically or programmatically and still retain its basic