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13 November 2017

Parque Forestal: a persistent urban project that integrates nature and city

El Parque Forestal: persistente proyecto urbano integrador de la naturaleza y la ciudad

In the month of urbanism, I was invited to write a column for the National Museum Benjamín Vicuña MacKenna (Santiago, Chile). This column is intended as “a space of reflection and participation and seeks to collect the opinion from citizens, specialist and academics on the city”. I chose to write about Parque Forestal, an urban park designed in the year 1900 by the French architect George Dubois. 

This linear urban park is significant in that it recognises and incorporates the geographical situation and natural landmarks defining the city (the Andes, its mountain ranges, and the Mapocho River). Because of the Parque Forestal´s flawless design logic, new parks continue to be created in all the municipalities crossed by the river. These parks stretch along the Mapocho river, creating a system of open spaces—urban “windows”— and allowing us to contemplate the Andes mountains in a continuous manner.  

In times when urban gestures tend to be timid, surrendering the responsibility of cities (in all their complexity) to others, often the market and their developers, it is crucial to revisit and value the work done by our predecessors—the urbanists—and recuperate the drive that will permit us make cities better places for all. (Article in Spanish, published by the MNBVM on November 1, 2017).


Parque Forestal y Río Mapocho durante la proyección del Museo Arte de Luz, donde 14 artistas expusieron sus obras (2015). 
Frecuentemente asociamos el urbanismo a los llenos formados por los edificios e infraestructura. Se nos olvida que parte importante de esta forma e imagen de la ciudad está compuesta por sus espacios abiertos, los vacíos, los espacios verdes—esos relieves que nos recuerdan que la ciudad respondió en su origen a su situación geográfica y paisajística natural—.
A pesar de que en Santiago transgredimos constantemente estos orígenes, aun conservamos sus huellas. Entre estos, el río Mapocho, algunos de los riachuelos (hoy canales), incluso nuestra avenida principal (Alameda) que alguna vez fue un curso de agua. También nos quedan parte de las vistas majestuosas de la cordillera que se insinúan entre edificios y gigantografías que imponen en el habitante sus burdos mensajes.

En la conformación de Santiago, se valoró y destacaron sus orígenes, su topografía y es así como el río Mapocho, a pesar de la canalización que lo despojó de su capacidad de mantener sus ecosistemas, fue por otra parte enaltecido con el Parque Forestal. Parque lineal, diseñado por el arquitecto francés George Dubois en el año 1900, como primer parque urbano moderno del país y que formó parte de un conjunto de estrategias urbanas que transformaron y humanizaron la ciudad.

El Parque Forestal, que acompañaría en su recorrido al Río Mapocho, fue concebido como lugar de paseo y contemplación, de encuentro e integración, fue delineándose paulatinamente con edificios residenciales y coronado por el Museo de Bellas Artes (1905-1910). La irreprochable lógica de su concepción como paisaje urbano longitudinal, unificador y complejo en su ambición, permitió que en la medida que la ciudad crecía, este parque continuara extendiéndose e integrando municipios, más allá de lo originalmente proyectado. Es así como nuevos parques se han sumado a su sistema, tanto desde el oriente como del poniente de la ciudad, uniéndose a este poderoso gesto urbano inclusivo.

Además de la belleza de su diseño y sus árboles, el Parque Forestal tiene valor inmaterial como construcción cultural reconocida en su calidad de zona típica. En el esparcimiento y el caminar se mezclan y conviven creativamente diversos grupos sociales, diversas edades y nacionalidades, enriqueciendo el parque con sus picnics, actividades comunitarias y variadas expresiones artísticas. En tiempos de condominios (ricos y pobres), donde lo fácil e inmediato es optar por el cerramiento y la exclusión—la antítesis de lo urbano—, el Parque Forestal, hito urbano integrador, complejo y persistente, se mantiene firme y abierto.

El parque Forestal nos recuerda que es posible e indispensable pensar la ciudad desde el proyecto urbano, con estrategias generosas que nuevamente transformen a Santiago y la conviertan en una ciudad amigable. El proyecto urbano requiere valorar los vacíos, proveyendo con más avenidas en la que podamos reconocer el entorno natural con sus magníficas vistas de la cordillera, integrando a todos sus habitantes en el reencuentro con la naturaleza y de paso, en el redescubrimiento de nuestra identidad.

Vista de la Plaza Italia (Baquedano), desde el Parque Forestal, con la cordillera de fondo (2017). 
Tanto hacia el oriente, como al poniente de la ciudad, nuevos parques se han integrado al sistema originado por el Parque Forestal (vista del parque en la comuna de Providencia).

Beatriz Maturana Cossio (PhD): Architect RMIT University. Master of Urban Design and PhD, University of Melbourne, Australia. Academic Director & Director of International Relations at the Faculty of Architecture and Urbanism, University of Chile. Adjunct Professor of RMIT University, Australia. Founder of Architects for Peace.



30 June 2017

Shelter: The inconographic nature of temporary structures

In his most recent work, 'Refuge' Melbourne artist Kevin Chin explores the iconographic nature of temporary structures. His images are a reminder that we should not underestimate the role temporary structures play in our society. We asked Kevin what he thought temporary structures symbolise about our current world.

Rain Hail Shine, 2017, oil on Italian linen, 163 x 238 cm. Image: Kevin Chin.

'Refuge’ was a year in the making, and comprises five large-scale oil paintings. I had been reading widely about the global migrant crisis, and this mass media imagery was in my consciousness while developing the compositions. I restaged what became like symbols that I found kept repeating, and that resonated – like temporary shelter structures, children in queues, and domestic refuge.

By recreating these potent icons and rearranging their context, they’ve been translated away from specific world events, and into universal aspects of the human condition, we can all relate to – themes of journey, transition and sanctuary.

The temporary structures depicted in these paintings are used to speak of a broader sense of transience and instability. This reflects a global sense of insecurity, in the context of the US election of Trump, the resurgence of political parties like One Nation in Australia, and continuing debate around who belongs and who doesn’t. In this way, I believe temporary structures say more about our current society than permanent structures – about uncertainty, that things are constantly being re-evaluated and in a state of flux.

The theme of shelter in the paintings touches on the basic human need we all share, to feel secure and protected. My aim is to subtly reference these issues in a way that’s gentle, that makes you want to look closer, and then ask more about what’s going on. I hope to turn these issues into universal themes that we can all relate to, and thereby create a compassionate response.

Sheltered, 2017, oil on Italian linen, 97 x 142 cm. Image: Kevin Chin.


Pilgrimage, oil on Italian linen, 132 x 198cm. Image: Kevin Chin.

See ‘Refuge' by Kevin Chin from 1 July - 22 July 2017 at This Is No Fantasy + Dianne Tanzer Gallery, 108–110 Gertrude Street, Fitzroy, Melbourne.

In 2017 Kevin Chin was awarded a globally competitive residency at Teton Artlab USA. His international exhibiting profile also includes 2014 solo exhibitions at Art Stage Singapore, and Youkobo Art Space Tokyo, for which he was awarded an Ian Potter Cultural Trust Grant. He is the recipient of multiple grants from the Australia Council, City of Melbourne, and National Association for the Visual Arts. 

Visit Kevin's website to find out more about his work.






26 September 2016

Stories From the STREAT

Recently, Architects for Peace met a team of creative people working to empower homeless young people in Melbourne through the sharing of stories. Read on to learn more about the STREAT Stories Mapping Project.




City streets are shared by people from all works of life; from different places, cultures and backgrounds. In our everyday lives we tend to live in our own little worlds. Our journeys around cities are filled with our own memories and thoughts. We see the city through a lens that is clouded with our own histories and world views. We rarely get a chance to think about the city from the perspective of others.

The STREAT Stories Mapping Project provides us with a chance to view new perspectives. It allows us to see the city through a different lens- that of the young people who call the city streets home. They have a very different view of the city to most others, and see the streets from a different angle and at all times of the day. Viewing the city through their lens, we can learn a lot. Not only about our city, but about the lives and experience of others. The project builds compassion through understanding. It provides the broader Melbourne community with an idea of what it feels like to be homeless and disadvantaged in one of the world’s most 'liveable' cities.

STREAT is a much loved Melbourne based social enterprise that provides homeless and disadvantaged young people with life skills, training and work experience. STREAT operates a number of city cafes, and recently unveiled 66 Cromwell St, Collingwood, which incorporates youth spaces, a bakery, roastery and cafe to showcase the teams cooking and coffee making skills. Founded by CEO Bec Scott and Kate Barrelle in 2009, STREAT has trained and supported hundreds of young people. For this project, STREAT collaborated with the non/fictionLab in RMIT's School of Media and Communication and artist Alex Hotchin.

Stayci Taylor and Francesca Rendle-Short  from non/fictionLab have contributed the following words about the project and the process of collaboration:


"At the end of 2015, STREAT collaborated with RMIT University’s non/fictionLab and designer Alex Hotchin to empower the disadvantaged youth participating in STREAT’s programs to tell their own stories. The resulting #STREATstories Story Mapping Project connects homeless youth with other members of their communities. Working from the idea that we all share the same city, the project invites communities to tell their shared stories. 

The first of many planned creations was the Christmas wrapping paper, created from the stories of homeless youth, Indigenous collaborators, participants in STREAT events and shoppers at Melbourne Central. The map was distributed as wrapping paper at Melbourne Central in the busy 2015 holiday season, and supplies ran out several times. 

After an initial period of coming together and brainstorming, Alex Hotchin began the map-drafting process, while stories came in from STREAT participants and events, within which RMIT’s Stayci Taylor ran writing workshops. In October 2015, the non/fictionLab hosted the first official meeting of the blended team of STREAT, RMIT and independent representatives.  Those present included: designer Alex, STREAT CEO Rebecca Scott, Jarryd Williams (STREAT’s General Manager of Youth Programs) and non/fictionLab co-director Francesca Rendle-Short. From here stories were collated for incorporation into Alex’ evolving design. Out of this meeting came other exciting developments, including the inclusion of hashtags to link those experiencing the map to longer versions of the stories, as well as to songs composed from the stories and recorded (#STREATbeats). 

The text comes from the writers’ direct experience of the city.  While some of the text is quite literal in its placement, some invites the reader to enjoy the unexpected context.  Landmarks take subtly new forms as inspired by the imaginative interpretations of some of the writers. One-line snippets from stories run along city streets. Longer stories sit in blocks on the grid. An acknowledgement of country floats through the Yarra. The collaboration with Alex and STREAT aligns with the aims and objectives of the non/fictionLab, which is engaged in creative fieldwork, critical perspectives and imaginative inquiry".

The STREAT Stories Mapping project is an inspiring example of how we can share urban stories. Building shared understanding is a key part of creating strong, connected and inclusive communities.

To learn more about the organisations involved in the STREAT Stories Mapping project, follow the links at the end of this post. We also encourage you to visit #STREATbeats and listen to some of the youth stories that have been turned into songs.


Gathering stories from the STREAT. ©RMITnon/fictionlab

STREAT Stories Map.  ©AlexHotchin

STREAT Stories Map.  ©AlexHotchin

STREAT map christmas gift wrap. ©RMITnon/fictionlab.


non/fiction lab team members Stacyi Taylor and Francesa Rendle-Short. ©RMITnon/fictionlab.

STREAT map christmas gift wrap. ©RMITnon/fictionlab.

STREAT Stories Project Team:

STREAT is a social enterprise helping homeless youth to have a stable self, stable job and stable home. Through its six hospitality businesses in Melbourne STREAT provides young people with supported pathways to employment – including assistance finding stable housing, vocational skills, improved mental health and well-being.

RMIT non/fictionLab is a research centre that critically explores and articulates the value of creative work as a playful vessel for the imagination. This thinking through making can show people who they are and how they are implicated in the lives of others. Non/fiction lab builds and supports laboratories of practice around matters of social, political, cultural and environmental concern. They work in partnership with fellow scholars, writers and artists, and with industries and communities, local and international. The team for this project includes Dr Michelle Aung Thin, Kat Clarke, Dr Melody Ellis, Dr Francesca Rendle-Short, Dr Ronnie Scott and Stayci Taylor. 

Alex Hotchin is an illustrator, creator, map maker and adventurer. Working across a variety of media, she creates work based on the principals of story telling by capturing detailed moments in multi-layered narratives.  She has a particular interest in the art of map making, and uses this medium to tell stories about the inherent subjectivity of experiencing a place.  Her maps have been exhibited in New York, Istanbul and Melbourne.





21 September 2016

Representing Peace: Can peace be set in stone?


Today is the International Day of Peace, a day devoted to strengthening the ideals of peace around the world. What are some different ideas of peace? How is it represented in urban spaces?  
In considering these questions we turn to Paul Gough, who gives an interesting narrative of the changing nature of peace monuments over time. 




‘I thought we had quite enough memorials that seemed to revive the war spirit rather than to consider peace, which is, after all, the aim and end of every great struggle’. 


So reflected the sculptor Adrian Jones as he prepared to cast the symbolic figure of ‘Peace’ for the Uxbridge war memorial in 1924. For artists working in the classical style, ‘Peace’ usually took the conventional form of a female figure holding aloft an olive branch, palm frond, or occasionally, a dove. ‘Peace’ was rarely a solo act. Invariably she was a junior partner to the more strident figure of ‘Victory’, and always located at a lower point on the pedestal arrangement.

In Colchester where the citizens raised £7,500 to erect a five metre high war memorial of Portland stone, the figure of ‘Peace’ rests at ground level and is overshadowed by an massive winged figure of ‘Victory’, in her right hand a sword representing ‘the Cross of Sacrifice and Sword of Devotion’ and in her left hand a laurel wreath – the classical emblem of Victory. During the ‘monumental era’ of the 1920’s the representation of‘ Peace’ was riddled with ambiguity. For example, the ‘Peace’ figure atop the Thornton Memorial, near Bradford, holds a wreath in each hand, offering us a perplexing choice between olive leaves of peace or victorious laurels. The popular inscription Invicta Pax could mean ‘undefeated in war’, ‘undefeated by death’, or even ‘peace to the undefeated’. Few, if any, memorials celebrated peace in its own right. British memorial sculpture implied that ‘Peace’ was the consequence of ‘Victory’, not an ideal worth promoting as a separate or distinct entity. Only the keenest horticultural eye might be able to tell the difference between an emblem of peace - the olive - and those of victory, the laurel.

Not until after the Second World War do we find public artworks exclusively intended to promulgate the ideas of peace. Often prompted by a fear of the consequences of nuclear proliferation, the most memorable artworks are located in such blitzed cities as Dresden, Coventry and Nagasaki. As a designated ‘peace city’, Hiroshima functions simultaneously as a reliquary, a funerary site, a civilian battlefield, and as a locus of political and social debate. Invariably, most ‘peace memorials’ have taken the form of designed landscapes, preserved ruins and counter-monuments. As a communal and collective act, gardening became the favoured rhetoric of peace, resulting in the 1970s in a network of local, national and international peace gardens and peace parks. They served various functions: in Central America they were created as ‘cordons sanitaire’ to help promote trans-national co-operation, in the Middle East ‘peace parks’ have been created as de-militarised buffer zones between warring factions. In central Africa they have been created to erase recent military turmoil and to protect bio-diversity. Perhaps Ken Livingstone’s greatest legacy will be the network of peace gardens in London planted to symbolize the GLC stance on anti-nuclear proliferation.

Perhaps the most recent, and infamous, act of activist – or guerilla -  gardening took place during the May Day marches through central London. Protesting against globalism, capitalism and war, marchers not only attempted to reclaim official spaces of state, but to stain it with irreverent markers, of which the most memorable is the green ‘mohican’ placed on the statue of Churchill in Parliament Square.  It was not the disfiguration of a state icon that was held to be most heinous, rather that it should be done with dug-up turf, a material normally associated with manicured lawn, horticultural order, and the ‘green coverlet’ of official commemoration. Compare this irreverent, but rather witty, action with the state-condoned act of mass tribute during the grieving for Princess Diana, with its floral aneurysm bursting out of St James Palace – a triumph of cellophane wrapping and recreational grief.

Where ‘peace monuments’ do exist, they are often presented as fluid, open-ended artworks that require active co-operation from the public. A peace cairn in County Donegal, Eire, for example, consists of a mound of hand-sized stones individually contributed by pilgrims wishing to create a ‘permanent monument to peace’ which is, in fact, in a constant state of change. Such a ‘monument’ seems to suggest that if ‘peace’ cannot be represented because it lacks the necessary rhetorical language, it might be promoted by continuous public involvement. After all, a peace cairn symbolises, at one level, the laying down of ‘arms’ but also the need for maintenance, commitment and persistent effort.

Peace is most often represented aesthetically and polemically as transient, dialectic and fluid. It is rarely state-sponsored and eschews the plinth and the plaza. It has also reclaimed the temporal, as well as the spatial. Bristol-based web artists Annie Lovejoy and Mac Dunlop have extended the domain of peace into the fourth dimension; their web project The Numbers and the Names refers to the global impact of September 11th. Words drawn from Dunlop’s poems float on a colourless screen, creating an orbital movement circling a void. The words appear in an order generated according to an inverse reading of the viewers’ IP address and, significantly, those of previous visitors to the web site. By using the mouse, the orbit of words – celebrated, wind, bomb, missing - can be slowed down or re-orbited, but they cannot be stopped altogether. As a virtual monument, The Numbers collates a record of mourners rather than a conventional listing of the dead; it is endlessly iterative and inclusive in a way that extends our understanding of the memorial act. In its refreshing simplicity, the anti-rhetoric of peace has moved some way from angel’s wings and ambiguous laurel wreaths.

Original publication details: Paul Gough, ‘Can peace be set in stone?’ from the Times Higher Education, 4th April 2003, pp. 18-19.


Paul Gough is Pro Vice-Chancellor and Vice President, College of Design and Social Context, RMIT University. Paul's research interests lie in the iconography of commemoration, the cultural geographies of battlefields, and the representation of peace and conflict. Visit Places of Peace to explore some of his work in these areas. Learn more about Paul through his RMIT staff profile: Professor Paul Gough.