Three UC Berkeley alumni win competition for 370-acre metropolitan park in Lima

Tomás McKay, Kushal Lachhwani and Pablo Alfaro’s winning project 'The Mantle and the Plinth' for the public park in Pachacamac, Peru integrates heritage and ecology in its design.

by Meghna Mehta Published on : Jul 27, 2020

An international competition was organised by the 2021: Bicentennial Projects initiative, in association with the Ministry of Culture and the Municipality of Lima for the design of a public park in the Sanctuary of Pachacamac, south of Lima, Peru. The project that aims to protect the land from future invasions for the design of a 370-acre metropolitan state park at a heritage site, was won by a team of three landscape designers who are also the alumni of UC Berkeley’s LAEP (Landscape Architecture and Environmental Planning) programme. Based in California, USA, Kushal Lachhwani, Pablo Alfaro and Tomas McKay designed the Parque Pachacamac: The Mantle and the Plinth for the competition which provided a landscape architecture responding to the relationship that the city of Lima should have with its archaeological heritage and its arid landscape.

The site for the public park in Lima, Peru | Parque Pachacamac: The Mantle and the Plinth | Alfaro Lachhwani McKay | STIRworld
The site for the public park in Lima, Peru Image Credit: Courtesy of Marcela Durand

The competition required the proposal to have cohesion with buildings such as the National Museum, the Pachacamac Site Museum, and the Urpi Wachaq initiative for the recovery of wetlands. The Pachacamac Master Plan — a document sponsored by UNESCO and the COPESCO National Plan, and approved in 2014 - calls for the design of a linear park along the perimeter of the archaeological site.

‘Parque Pachacamac: The Mantle and the Plinth’, the winning proposal for the design of a public park in Pachacamac, Lima | Parque Pachacamac: The Mantle and the Plinth | Alfaro Lachhwani McKay | STIRworld
‘Parque Pachacamac: The Mantle and the Plinth’, the winning proposal for the design of a public park in Pachacamac, Lima Image Credit: Courtesy of Alfaro Lachhwani McKay

Parque Pachacamac: The Mantle and the Plinth emerged as the winner after a jury including Lucia Allais, Alan Berger, Paulo Dam, Tom Emerson and Danilo Martic, shortlisted 38 proposals, and then one winner from three finalists. The judges described the project as: “The project goes beyond the site’s current limitations and deploys a clear and coherent set of architectural, landscape, artistic and participatory strategies. It was selected for the ingenious way that it integrates the archaeological area—and all the symbolic weight it represents—with the ephemeral fluctuations of the region’s natural cycles, which are rarely made visible on site”.

Here, STIR speaks with Kushal Lachhwani, one of the designers of the winning team, to know more about the competition, the design process and the victory.

Meghna Mehta (MM): What was the competition brief?

Kushal Lachhwani (KL): Apart from the pre-requisites of the brief, the project was to also act as a buffer, not only protecting the archaeological complex from future encroachments, but also offering services, cultural programmes and recreational areas to local and metropolitan populations. A park of this scale would therefore help consolidate the Pachacamac Sanctuary as one of the most important heritage sites in Peru, as well as a key precedent for landscape design in Lima.

South access and Museum Bridge | Parque Pachacamac: The Mantle and the Plinth | Alfaro Lachhwani McKay | STIRworld
South access and Museum Bridge Image Credit: Courtesy of Alfaro Lachhwani McKay

MM: Were there any particular challenges that you addressed and faced during the design process?

KL: To execute a park, a landscape architect’s primary tools are water and a vegetation palette. When we started diving deep into the site conditions, we realised we were working in an arid metropolitan city (Lima is the second largest city located at a coastal desert), which only receives 16 mm of rainfall annually. The city is struggling to provide water, and most interestingly, the site does not allow us to dig to preserve the archaeologically heritage. There was no space for roots. “If you dig 40cm here, you will recover an Incan spoon,” the archaeologist had mentioned to us. This negated the possibility to plant any trees because we did not have any option to provide root space for them; neither the resources for their growth.

Aerial view of the site at the Pachacamac Sanctuary | Parque Pachacamac: The Mantle and the Plinth | Alfaro Lachhwani McKay | STIRworld
Aerial view of the site at the Pachacamac Sanctuary Image Credit: Courtesy of Archivo MSPAC

MM: Can you walk us through the zones of the design?

KL: As the title mentions, the park has been conceived with two primary zones. The plinth and the mantle.

The Plinth is an active urban promenade that limits the Pachacamac site, protecting it from urban sprawl, but also plugging into the existing fabric to activate several neglected public spaces. This promenade has an urban plinth that houses the new Pachacamac Esplanade; an urban scale plaza, a community market, a ceremonial flag post, the northern station of the Pachacamac Funicular, the visitor centre, a dry nursery, and a wide East-West walk that frames the north entrance to the Park. The plinth acts as a “water factory,” treating greywater from the neighbourhood and re-using it to irrigate the park. In the south, the archeological plinth connects the entrances of the Site Museum and MUNA (National Museum of Archaeology). For this promenade we have proposed a sequence of shaded areas, plantations and esplanades giving access to various destinations and a tensile structure that provides shade to the Pachacamac Crafts Market, oriented mainly to the visitors of the ruins and MUNA.

The Mantle is an ecological blanket that covers the entire site, protecting archaeological remains from the forces of nature, while providing ecosystem services to the surrounding neighbourhoods. The mantle acts as a “fog factory,” moving recycled water through the park and turning it into fog to create a “tillandsia”, a typical Peruvian coastal desert ecosystem.

Masterplan of The Plinth and the Mantle| Parque Pachacamac: The Mantle and the Plinth | Alfaro Lachhwani McKay | STIRworld
Masterplan of The Plinth and the Mantle Image Credit: Courtesy of Alfaro Lachhwani McKay

MM: What are the significant features of this project?

KL: Besides achieving the goals of protecting the archaeology at site, the design went steps ahead to address the community’s interactions with the edge of the park through an integrated porous. We hope to build the park with the community as primary stakeholders to also aid the economy by inviting locals as well as tourists.

In addition, our design tried to be innovative by using the natural and native plants while also trying to make the residents familiar with the natural processes, water flows and the archaeological history. It is an educational design, which promotes ecological and archaeological resiliency.

Perspective section of the plinth and the wastewater recycling system | Parque Pachacamac: The Mantle and the Plinth | Alfaro Lachhwani McKay | STIRworld
Perspective section of the plinth and the wastewater recycling system Image Credit: Courtesy of Alfaro Lachhwani McKay

MM: How was the design developed keeping the location and context in mind?

KL: With low rainfall in Lima and a foggy dusty climate, the design pays attention to establish the park with a ‘water-wise’ strategy that does not put added pressure on limited resource. In fact, it recycles city grey water for providing irrigation in the park.

Pachacamac is one of the largest and most important archaeological sites in Peru. During its time, it was the most visited huaca (oracle) of the Andean world. The vulnerability of its archaeological heritage also helped us in positively thinking about protecting, preserving and sharing the history with residents and tourists alike.

From a community perspective, Lima is a city with a very absent middle class. There is a divide between the extremely rich and a struggling population. Turning the tables from illegal encroachments in the park to taking ownership of shared open space was the third strategy, which hopes to make this park a successful design.

A handicraft market | Parque Pachacamac: The Mantle and the Plinth | Alfaro Lachhwani McKay | STIRworld
A handicraft market Image Credit: Courtesy of Alfaro Lachhwani McKay

MM: How did you approach the design keeping all the competition parameters in mind?

KL: Archaeology and nostalgia are not synonyms. Ecology and progress are not antonyms. In Pachacamac, archaeology and ecology will have the same meaning.

The interactions between Peru and its past should be more fluid. The Pachacamac Park presents a unique opportunity to subvert the way in which Peruvians relate both to their historical and natural heritage. Using ecology as a framework, Pachacamac: The Mantle and the Plinth aims to unify this sanctuary as one archaeo-ecological park with deep historical, social and ecological value.

Section of Urban Plinth | Parque Pachacamac: The Mantle and the Plinth | Alfaro Lachhwani McKay | STIRworld
Section of Urban Plinth Image Credit: Courtesy of Alfaro Lachhwani McKay

MM: How did the design change and evolve over a period of time?

KL: We are working with a realistic possibility of engaging the sewer system of the neighbouring community to provide us enough grey water for irrigating the park. The design boundaries are currently being vetted by archaeologists at site, which has led to some changes (in extents of design) to preserve the existing artifacts but also provided new destination points to increase the understanding of this heritage sanctuary. After the survey, we are also trying to make use of the existing topography to transport water by only using gravity.

Project Details

Name: Parque Pachacamac: The Mantle and the Plinth (Pachacamac Park)
Location: Pachacamac Sanctuary, Lima, Peru
Design firm: Alfaro Lachhwani McKay
Area: 370 acres (1.5 sqkm)
Time taken from conception to construction: Projects is currently in design development stage  
Competition and conceptual development: 3 months  
Estimated completion date: 2024
Design team: Kushal Lachhwani, Pablo Alfaro and Tomas McKay
Other collaborators: Denise Pozzi Escot (Director-Museo De Sitio, Pachacamac), Carmen Rosa (Architect and Community Engagement Coordinator, Pachacamac), Gary Legget (Architect, Professor, Lima)

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