PP29 in Santiago, Chile by Ignacio Garcia Partarrieu, Liliana de Simone, Valentina Rozas, Daphne Agosin, Arturo Torres, Sebastian Silva, Daniel Muñoz, 2010
Cementerio General is Santiago's main cemetery, occupying a huge area north of the city center. It contains the remains of many of Chile's most important historical figures in "historical zones" marked by large buildings and mausoleums, wide walkways, and plenty of trees. Moving from the main entrance to the north edge of the cemetery, the city-like nature of the place gives way to a more open landscape of grass and grave markers. One of these "Patios," number 29, was the subject of a design competition in early 2008, aimed at the intervention and enhancement of an area housing victims of Augusto Pinochet's military dictatorship.
The competition was won by a team of architects (Ignacio Garcia Partarrieu, Liliana de Simone, Valentina Rozas, Daphne Agosin and Arturo Torres) with designer Sebastian Silva and sociologist Daniel Muñoz. Their proposal gives definition to a Patio very much like the adjacent ones: barely paved roads, ditches, the appearance of abandon, a horizontality and informality counter to the rest of the cemetery. An L-shape walkway comprises the new intervention, a memorial that does not touch Patio 29, but instead gives a vantage around it.
During the military dictatorship, this place witnessed the burial and concealment of bodies of victims of the State repression. However these terrible acts, thanks to its status as protected public space, Patio 29 also became one of the first sites of resistance against the regime. -PP29 Project TeamThe southern tip of the new platform meets the adjacent walkway at grade, staying level as the existing slopes down. This difference is treated with a stepping in an apparently haphazard manner, as if the platform was eroded over time. The same happens along the edge facing the Patio, enabling a variety of positions for visitors to sit alone or in groups. The whole platform is articulated with over 3,000 custom precast concrete pavers articulated with a water-like texture on the top face. Their fabrication started with a digital model and used a CNC machine to create a mold for the precast. Even though they are repeated thousands of times, the effect is variable, shimmering.
Further variation within the L-shaped platform comes from gaps filled with grass, sculptural pieces, and stone pavers with poems and phrases, such as statements from four human rights' groups. These gaps help determine the eroded edge of the platform, pushing and pulling the pavers relative to their neighbors. Other precast pavers are scattered about the rest of the cemetery, pointing visitors to this far edge. The new memorial suitably follows the informal characteristics of the adjacent Patio, but it provides a durability and unique expression that lets visitors know something special is marked. It may be subtle, but it is a welcome intervention in this "city of the dead."