New perspectives for a Mexican city; broad perspectives for a new park
By Jimena Martignoni
San Luis de Potosí is one of the main industrial centers in central Mexico. It is located halfway between Mexico City and the United States border and in the middle of the triangle formed by Mexico City and Guadalajara and Monterrey, the other two largest cities in Mexico. Recently the city has been promoted as a touristic destination in central Mexico by state and federal programs. In 2010 the historic center of the city was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
At present, San Luis is the object of an important renovation plan which seeks to create a mixed and sustainable city based on the conversion of large areas of land that were abandoned after years of industrial use. This concept, post-industrial conversion is being globally explored and put into practice. In this case, the IMMSA Plan wants to go far beyond and set new larger objectives for energy conservation, water use reduction and recycling, public transportation and bicycle paths interconnected to the existing urban structure. The main idea is to generate a new “village” - an urban city-center with surrounding housing and residences, services, education, offices, cultural institutions and a system of open green spaces – out of the reutilization of a zinc plant which was officially closed in 2010 and what used to be the residential complex for the executive staff.
The total area of this new urban complex is 487 hectares, of which 164 correspond to the green spaces system. This system includes parks, reservoirs and accessible water features, natural conservation areas, plazas, linear parks and buffers as well as pedestrian corridors. Bicentennial Park which was the first to be built became the most significant example of a linear park; located on the western edge of the abandoned zinc plant. This piece acts as a buffer between the industrial area and an existing housing development. In addition, this park is connected to other open spaces, thus completing a regional network and configuring a ring around the new village.
The creation and construction of this park as a first step in the process of land conversion in San Luis de Potosí, has been the direct result of the actions of the plant´s owners who had to commit to the creation of the park as part of the remediation procedures of the industrial site. Three main actions had to be carried out by IMMSA. The first of which the plant must bestow the property of a number of water wells that now provide water to twenty-nine colonies of the city; the second being that they must provide state-of-the art anti-polluting methods for the area and the third is that they must call for the design of a new park that functions as a buffer along one of the edges of the site, opposite to which a residential complex had been built. For this task they commissioned GDU, Grupo de Diseño Urbano, who were put in charge of a Master Plan and the general project coordination.
The park is one kilometer long and 80 meters wide. Part of the surface had been used by the residential complex as a dumping spot during construction stages and had been built up as very irregular terrain with slopes in both directions. In order to consolidate the land, the project proposes an average two meter-high landfill and a series of reshaped slopes, covered in stone, which generate subtle inclinations towards the two edges. However, the largest elevation change is across the 80 meters with an almost 10 meter-difference between the main road and the level of the residential complex. Due to the irregular grading of the site, the park´s level coincides only in its central area with that of the complex and in other segments it is either higher or lower. This produces a very dynamic profile and space which, in turn, allows for the creation of diverse niches, terrace-like spots and differently landscaped areas.
Two thirds of the park – almost 70 hectares long – constitutes a typical linear park which offers a central bicycle pathway and at the sides, small woods for passive uses. These forested areas are profusely planted with honey mesquites (Prosopis), jellybean trees (Parkinsonia), guajillo trees (Acacias), golden mimosas (Acacia baileyana), oaks (Quercus sp), walnuts (Juglans sp), poplars (Populus sp) and madras thorn (Pithecellobium). Since this segment mostly represents the highest levels of the park, it provides wide vistas of the site and its water reservoir. At certain spots, the flat areas are used as open museum spaces which exhibit industrial artifacts recovered from the plant. In this manner, the traces of the past establish a symbolic dialogue with the image of the present and visually connect with the neighboring remnant industrial buildings.
To shape a quite dense green screen on the furthest strip of the edge against the site at pedestrian level, the landscape plan proposed a row of Italian cypresses (Populus stricta). The opposite one against the road offers arrangements of cacti species, all recovered from the area or the region. The actions of recovering and reusing were set among the main objectives of this extensive conversion process and the transplanting of hundreds of cacti and other plants native to these arid areas was a very significant example of this. Moreover, the reuse of local materials was also an important step for a landscape project; all paths are made of crushed stone recycled from the plant.
The other third part of the park, which is on a lower level, proposes active uses for family recreation. Since temperatures and sun radiation are usually very high in San Luis de Potosí the offer of shady spaces is a top priority in this park; for this reason, the project presents four tensioned fabric roofs: two for playgrounds, one for an auditorium and the final one for an exercise area.
Exhibited in nicely-defined clusters that delineate edges and delicate mounds, many desert species and xerophytic plants appear in this segment of the park. Additionally, large masses of grasses such as pennisetum and festuca are arranged in monochromatic and homogeneous islands which interrupt the parks’ pavement in a very picturesque manner.
With every one of these subtle details the project seeks to establish the park as a place of memory and of learning and to act as a witness to the past and to the industrial history of the site. Its dynamic presence is there to explore current needs, trends and lifestyles.
Although still very new, the park is at an initial phase of an ambitious plan for the Mexican city of San Luis de Potosí. The idea of using a park as an opening tool for a larger and complex urban project is the first step towards a more environmental-friendly urban conscience. It is something to learn from and a sign of how green spaces cover the basic needs of present times.
Location: San Luis Potosí, San Luis Potosí, México
Total Area: 486 hectares; System of Open Areas: 164, 7 hectares; Park: 8, 5 hectares
Date of Completion: 2011
Client: Grupo México S.A de C.V
Master Plan and Landscape Architecture: Mario Schjetnan / Grupo de Diseño Urbano
IMMSA Plan´s Project Coordinator: Manuel Peniche
Park´s Project Coordinator: Roberto Villareal