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Centre for Ecosystemic Investigation in Baker River, Patagonia

Part 2 Project 2008
Alicia Leon
Pontifical Catholic University of Chile Santiago Chile
The interest of this project consisted in understanding works in landscape as projects in land that would manifest man’s cultural traces and identity.
Specifically in this investigation, the work studied was a Hydroelectric Project of 4 dams in Baker River, in Chilean Patagonia.

The opportunity highlighted by the project was the idea of transforming the Gravel Extraction Project needed for the construction of 1 dam in a cultural feature in the Chilean South. Through Architectural and Landscape design from the start, the project started studying the Gravel Extraction Process to design the Quarry’s hole, roads, water access and erosion control for designing it’s second use.
The 20 hectares hole and its 30 m depth let the growth of Native Chilean species from northern and southern regions due to new climatic conditions in the hole: wind defence and major water access.

With carefulness in the road and slope design, to convert the hole in an interior space for the visitors to discover and experience the Chilean and American transformed landscape.
With understanding water conduction and slope erosion control measures as our ways of modelling, inscribing and registering in land our sustainable and form concerns.
With the idea of creating a place for man to interact with the roots and future of his Andean landscape, believing in the crossing of disciplines and believing in the design of form as a way of linking man with his history, engineering procedures and ecological measures.

A Centre for Ecosystemic Investigation was proposed in the place of the Quarry’s hole.
Studying the Incas’ and Mayan ways of understanding and building infrastructure in the Andes; understanding the Quarry’s hole from it’s spatial features: slopes, plains, and relations between them, reaffirmed by the species that would grow in it. Also understanding the road outline and shape as walking paths for visitors to discover the project and relate themselves to the land. And finally, the water conduction and slope erosion control measures; as ways of delivering geometric forms for the crossing between Extraction Engineering, Land and Culture.

Alicia Leon

Chile is a country that has, according to its Military Institute, more than 72 different types of landscapes. This diversity, contrasted with the fact that 91% of the country’s exports’ come, from primary industry, provides a great challenge and opportunity for designers.
The Final Project –Thesis Option Studio has devoted itself to understanding Chile’s economic impact on its landscape, its local constituencies, public and private interest for development, biotic communities and local infrastructure. The argument makes a case for designing a program and using the architectural project as a negotiation tool for agreement.
The project presented by my student, Alicia Leon, started by mapping large scale primary industry projects, and finally zooming into one of the most controversial hydroelectric projects in Southamerica. Hidroaysen Damm aims to provide 30% of the countries electric need for the next 5 years, locating several pass dams in one of the world’s most pristine landscape, Patagonia. This raises questions for planning, development and the future of undeveloped territories. Alicia’s project creates a series of mitigation strategies for the construction period of the dams, while proposing alternate projects for post-industrial development and cultural progress. Her final focus is on the reconversion of the open pitt created for the construction of the dam into a Patagonian Flora Research Center and Botanic Garden.


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