The Garden of Forking Paths

Over the past 15 years, the Young Architects’ Program, which is sponsored by the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) and MoMA PS 1, has generated cutting-edge designs for parks, buildings, and public art. In four cities — New York City, Istanbul, Santiago, and Rome — winners of their design competitions have created some of the most fascinating landscape architecture and architecture around. In the past few years, winners have become even more ambitious, moving ideas from concept to reality. The scale has become more impressive, too, with a move from smaller temporary art installations to full-blown public parks.

Last years’ winner for the Santiago competition, The Garden of Forking Paths, by Beals & Lyon, a Santiago-based architecture firm, actually just got built. The 1,500-square-meter garden features a pair of bright-yellow pavilions nestled within a newly planted cornfield at the highest point of Santiago de Chile’s Parque Araucano. The park’s name is the same as one of Jorge Luis Borges’ short stories. In the Argentinian master’s story, a book called The Garden of Forking Paths is actually an “infinite labyrinth” in which people travel backwards and forward in time.

The labyrinth is made real in this garden. According to Icon magazine, the “architects borrowed a layout from the labyrinth at the garden of Versailles, recreating its spatial character by building timber paths above ground level but lost to the outside world within the specially planted field of maize.”

Alejandro Beals said: “We didn’t want to design a pavilion or folly, an isolated object to be looked at from the outside, but rather, an immersive environment.”

While the two pavilions, which are made of planks from recycled scaffolding, are both bright yellow, they have different vibes. One space offers a pool and deck chairs, with billowing curtains surround the space.

The other, an “aromatic orchard,” contains a flower garden under a “stretched fabric tunnel.” Other spaces include a music room and “banqueting room.”

Icon magazine tells us: “The entire strategy was to create a non-commercial, not fully defined environment in which people could get lost and perhaps have their attitude towards the spaces of the city refreshed. In this, the circuitousness of pathways, the ambiguity of the spaces, the isolation within the cornfield, combined with the intensified sounds and smells, all together were intended to heighten the sensory experience of the visitor, and as Beals puts it, to ‘promote a new rhythm that also allows you to perceive its surroundings in different and more intense ways’.” That effect will only increase once the maize grows in; it will be the same color as the pavilions.

See lots more images and explore previous winners of the Young Professionals Program.

Image credits: Beals & Lyon architects

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