A greatly complex city, halfway between the European matrix of the ‘plan’ and the total spontaneity of the ‘cerros’, the first Pacific port before the opening of the Panama Canal, a place of fusion between the cultures of the new and the old continent, Valparaíso experiences the crisis of the port even today, and the
adjacent Barrio Puerto represents the truest testimony: the historic district of nineteenth-century structure, mostly abandoned and used as a site of continuous urban demolition. Redefining and re-evaluating the role of these urban voids is the aim that generates the project.
The project wants to claim the double identity of the city: on one side, it is the cultural capital of Chile, synonym of that very artistic fervour that animates it, and on the other, it develops spontaneously as a natural port before being established as a city on behalf of the Spanish Crown, therefore evolving in an organic way made of concentric ‘rings’ which have stretched from the sea to the hills, the so called ‘cerros’. The architectural project foresees the construction of a cultural facility which includes the functions of museum, library, educational spaces and an outdoor theatre, developing into an urban scale path which moves from the ancient gateway to the city, the port, through its old axis of development. The port is considered as an urban part, in its connotation of empty space, called to clarify and redefine its relationships with the city that supports it, in a formal and functional sense, enhancing its strategic value of place of exchange. The project stands as a timely intervention which tries to mend relations that have gone missing following the destruction of some blocks of the Barrio Puerto, by proposing a linear system which represents an urban route, where the road becomes structure, the backbone of the entire architectural recovery intervention and new construction, a system that links existing public spaces with those of new intervention, trying to give new life to the historic core which best represents Valparaíso’s identity.
The project aims to resurface in the collective memory the hegemony that the Barrio Puerto has had as historical access to the city, his memory of the ancient gate of the Ocean, its value as a place of crossing, focusing on the ‘void space’, the space of the connection and the of the crossing, that is the land, intended as an urban geographic system, the supporting structure of the urban form. The project therefore becomes an act of crossing, that for Valparaíso represents its true act of foundation, from the time when ships sailed from Europe up to that where the bay was discovered for the first time, founding itself as a port city by developing a first core settlement near the Iglesia de la Matriz, up to that of its spontaneous expansion into the hills, an event that continues today.