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American Society of Landscape Architects


April 2007 Issue

Para Renovar el Bosque
In Mexico City, a new master plan and botanic garden restore the balance between ecological systems and social forces in the Bosque de Chapultepec.

By Brian Davis

Para Renovar el Bosque Photo Courtesy of Grupo de Diseño Urbano

The Bosque de Chapultepec in Mexico City—at 686 hectares, the largest urban park in the Americas—is the stage where much of the rich history of Mexico has played out. As the population of Mexico City exploded in the last half of the twentieth century, however, many of the environmental and social functions of the park were altered for the worse. Now, a new master plan and botanic garden by landscape architecture firm Grupo de Diseño Urbano (GDU) have added a new chapter to the history of the bosque.

Mexico City, with a population of 19 million, desperately needs quality parks. Despite the advantages of an abundant water supply, diversity of flora and fauna, and pleasant weather year-round, the city faces serious environmental and social problems. The two most serious—photochemical smog and contaminated water—could eventually make the city all but uninhabitable. And Mexico City has only 12,828 hectares of green space, providing a mere 5.2 square meters per resident.

Between 1903 and 1920, a major project was undertaken to make the bosque into a great urban park influenced by European parks and Olmsted’s work in the United States. The bosque became a place of picturesque lakes and hills, with great open lawns surrounded by old and varied forests, and was an important place of recreation and relaxation for the public. In addition to its historical importance, the Bosque de Chapultepec is the cultural center of Mexico. With seven museums, the National Auditorium, and the Mexico City Zoo, the bosque attracts more than 15 million visitors each year, 91 percent of whom come from Mexico City. Each weekend, the park attracts more than 200,000 visitors.

The landscapes in the bosque vary from heavily used commercial areas such as the main walkway to quiet, grassy openings in the forest. However, one is always aware of the palpable history of the bosque and the presence of Mexico City.

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