Landscapes to the Max

In 2016, as part of the global initiative 100 Resilient Cities sponsored by The Rockefeller Foundation, Mexico City ‘s CDMX Resilience Office released the first resilience strategy ever developed in Mexico. Based on a holistic approach, it defines the broad lines of action that will guide Mexico City’s long-term development plans and emphasizes the role of public space in responding to the ever more pressing conditions related to environmental and social risks. Built in a socially stratified area, the park La Mexicana is a manifesto of the dynamic and integrated approach proposed by the CDMX Resilience Office.

Parque la Mexicana
Parque la Mexicana is designed as an artificial landscape of rolling hills, embracing a winding lake. (Photo: Franco Panzini)

The southwestern outskirts of Mexico City are barren, topographically complex territories scattered with abandoned mines, where two adjacent but antithetical social realities and urban forms coexist: The formal and informal settlements of the worker communities that had originally settled in the area and that, resisting building speculation, struggled to remain there; and Santa Fe, an expanding, affluent neighborhood of high-rise buildings, whose construction begun after the catastrophic earthquake of 1985 with the aim of creating a new business center for the capital on the site of the former landfill. That real estate development project was carried out with considerable private capital, and resulted in an ultra-modern urban structure in terms of the quality of its architecture. It lacked, however, basic infrastructure, services, and public open space. Designed by Mario Schjetnan and his firm Grupo de Diseño Urbano (GDU) together with VMA Victor Marquez & Asociados, La Mexicana is the only large park in Santa Fe.

Mitigating the area’s social divide

Completed in 2017, the park unfolds along a pit formed by excavation activities on the eastern edge of the modern urban development. The transformation of a brownfield into a lush park through a complex operation of ecological remediation had two different intertwined dimensions. These were related to the improvement of urban living conditions in an extremely stratified area: a sustainable dimension, as the park provides a variety of ecosystem services ranging from heat mitigation to the improvement of the urban hydrological system; and a socio-cultural dimension, as it not only promotes physical activities and recreational practices within the gated communities of modern Santa Fe, but also aims at mitigating the area’s social divide, encouraging interaction between all the local residents.

Parque la Mexicana
Masterplan: Mario Schjetnan/Grupo de Diseño Urbano

Shaping a complex topography

Covering an area of 29 hectares, La Mexicana appears as a green canyon that establishes a dialogue between the glittering skyscrapers of Santa Fe and the roughness of the rock walls of the former mine. The park exploits the uniqueness of the terrain by shaping a complex topography of gentle green undulations that conceal a large artificial basin. The newly constructed landscape is dotted with a variety of functional areas: an open-air theater, a sophisticated skateboard park, a dog park, richly programmed playgrounds and areas for sport activities, lawns, plazas and pavilions housing restaurants, cafes and various facilities. The park’s design concept is based on a juxtaposition of areas with different atmospheres and spatial qualities, producing a continuous sense of surprise. Higher elevations scattered with irregular groves alternate with gentle landforms with expansive lawns, placid water basins are disturbed by a cascade, and areas for active recreational activities alternate with areas for passive recreation and solitary contemplation.

Read the full article in topos 106 with further information on the sustainable water management and the park’s role in social cohesion.