Ciudad Abierta, Arquitectura de Ritoque
I promised in my blog post Beaches north of Viña del Mar to Ventanas that I would find out more about the “Arquitectura de Ritoque”. This was initially sparked by one of Yasha’s English students, who had excitedly mentioned his trip to the “Ciudad Abierta”, when he heard that I was camping in Ritoque. I only learned the details when I was back for a week in Santiago, so I went to Ritoque for a second time, because I was really curious.
Now, anybody who knows me well would be aware that I have a keen interest in architecture, and often notice features on buildings that others miss. When I was a teenager, I actually wanted to become an architect – not a fireman or train driver. This had already begun much earlier; when I had nothing better to do on a rainy day (and believe me, where I grew up we had plenty of them) I would sit down with pencil and paper and draw buildings. Later, at around 13/14 years of age, they were completed with a floorplan. But unfortunately, my parents talked me out of it: “Do you want to stand for the rest of your life, in front of a drawing board, with your handicap?”*) Little did they know that before I had even turned 30, the drawing boards would be replaced by CAD programs and computers, and people hanging on to hand drawn plans were quickly losing ground. Anyway, you’re not here to read about missed opportunities in my past, but about the “Ciudad Abierta”…
*) I have a spine injury from birth with one leg shorter than the other.
And in one respect, they would have been right, because nowadays I cannot stand for long periods anymore.
Ciudad Abierta – Arquitectura de Ritoque
The idea of Ciudad Abierta actually goes back quite some time: in 1970, the site (some 270 hectares on the foreshore north of Viña del Mar) was acquired by a cooperative formed of artists, philosophers, architects and designers. To understand the timing, one should consider that 1970 was the year Salvador Allende Gossens, with his strong socialist ideals, gained power in Chile. To this day the “Corporación Cultural Amereida” is the holder of the land and all structures on it. There’s no private ownership, although some 10-12 families are reported to be living in the Ciudad Abierta.
[pullquote-right]Enlightened [by this word] we find the whereabouts and tasks of the Design and Architecture School in the Catholic University of Valparaíso, and especially those of the Open City and our Cultural Board. Such enlightenment brings a deep source of freedom and with time, the possibility of reaching new goals that allow us to carry out the tasks that we consider most important for building our world. Amereida is, after all, a vision. A vision that holds onto the highest and deepest virtues of humanity, inviting with creative peace the opportunity to re-envision the true essence of American identity. A vision that thrives to reach every field where craftsmanship can develop into art and rise up to its apex” [Amereida Cooperative].[/pullquote-right]
The cooperative was formed, as a utopian enclave, to experiment with new ways of living, working and studying. It is still used as a field for experimental architecture, guided by the teachers and alumni at the Design and Architecture School of the Catholic University of Valparaíso. The constant desire to experiment seems to drive this community, something which becomes very obvious when you visit. Not much seems to be constructed with a sense of “practicality” or “standards”. Many buildings are made from whichever material was available at the time, with not much thought of suitability or durability, particularly considering the site’s proximity to the harsh salty winds blowing off the nearby ocean. It’s a playful experiment with materials, and the various forms you can shape them into. Yet, out of this, some visually pleasing designs have emerged. Furthermore, the cooperative is also recognised internationally for their work with fabric-formed concrete structures (best look at Google images to understand this term.).
In order to officially visit the site you should make an appointment online , at least one week in advance, with Wednesday being the only day they can possibly offer an English speaking contact. [Now initially I wasn’t really interested in a “tour”, and I wasn’t even sure if these are aimed at single lay persons like me. I thought they might be meant for architectural students or group visits from other universities, though you can find the site mentioned in private blogs.] After my ad hoc visit I would now recommend that you try to book an appointment well in advance. I only accessed part of the site from the ocean side entrance. The remainder is fenced off, so I didn’t get to see it. I would also have liked to have a peek inside some structures. Plus, with a tour you are likely to receive more background information than I can provide here. A donation of 3,000+ Pesos per person is expected for a tour, this money to be spent on upkeep (if you visit you’ll see it’s urgently needed, too!).
I parked on a paid parking lot on the beach south of it (1,500 Pesos) instead, and walked in along the railway tracks until I found the entrance, shaped from fabric-formed concrete pillars (probably to keep the ever present quad bikes out).
A list of all structures on site , provided by the Amereida Collective [more photos]
History and historical quotes (in Spanish) of Amereida
English language article form the AAAA Magazine – quiet well written (I pulled the quote form it)
FabWiki’s link to Ciudad Abierta and its significance for fabric-formed concrete
(embedded in page above is a good map – use it to find the site!)
A Spanish language page with links to more Flickr photos
[All links open in a new browser window/tab!]