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The Garden of the Forking Paths

Beals & Lyon Architects

Designers: Alejandro Beals and Loreto Lyon

The site of the intervention is found in the Southwest corner of the Parque Araucano, at the highest point on a hill, surrounded by native trees. Its position is inscribed within a perimeter path, and itself implies a certain distance and discovery of the park. In this trail we have attempted to create a knot, a series of consecutive bifurcations, a system that proposes new rules, a new pace, a slowness; an interior that promotes a multi-sensorial perception and experience.

A pavilion in the park is usually seen as an isolated form read against the landscape, built to be perceived only visually, from the outside. On the other hand, typologies like the enclosed garden, the grotto, and the labyrinth are conceived from within, demanding a certain exploration and experience for their understanding. They have an ambiguous nature: they are simultaneously natural and artificial, interior and exterior, public and private, leaving space for the interpretation of both their significance and the situations that can occur within them.

With the labyrinth as a medium, the project creates a narrative of situations of discovery and surprise, exploring the possibilities of public space by introducing a series of new atmospheres and ambiences. To achieve this, we use a vegetal mass that creates a blurry or low-resolution environment, promoting perception through all the senses. This cornfield is explored through a system of timber paths built with recycled scaffolding planks. The whole structure is painted yellow, distinguishing it from the predominantly green landscape. Its geometric layout is borrowed from the labyrinth in the gardens of Versailles, which we have deformed and adapted to include a series of spaces in the form of rooms or "follies," openings in the path, spaces for unexpected and unforeseen situations and events. The trail begins and ends in a larger, yardlike space, a meeting place from which slight views give clues as to the happenings within the interior. This space, along with the system of pathways, simultaneously allows for the potential of both collective activity and personal experience and exploration. Watering systems in the four corners of the maze are activated at certain intervals, suddenly changing the atmospheric conditions. This, along with a central pool and light materials floating in the interior spaces, freshens the atmosphere.

The vegetal mass will be literally eaten by the visitors, its remains degrading into the ground below. Also, the whole structure is modular, so it can be dismantled and relocated to another site, so that perhaps another overlooked section of the city can be rediscovered, and the potential for its public use explored.

Text submitted by Beals & Lyon Architects