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
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
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
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