Mexico City’s Ambitious Elevated Park

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Avenida Chapultepec / FR-EE, FRENTE arquitectura, RVDG, and Mario Schjetnan GDU

Mexico City, one of the world’s great megalopolises, with more than 20 million people, is struggling to create more green space for its ever-expanding population. Estimates put the amount of green space in the city at just a few percent. To remedy this problem, a team of architects, landscape architects, planners, and urban designers with Mexican firms FR-EE, FRENTE arquitectura, RVDG, and Mario Schjetnan GDU will transform Avenida Chapultepec, one of the city’s oldest and busiest streets, into an elevated, 1.3-kilometer-long “cultural corridor” expected to open by 2017. The project will overhaul a 10-lane highway that runs west to east between Chapultepec Park and the center of the city.

This new elevated promenade will help reduce traffic accidents along one of the most dangerous and polluted stretches in the city, writes Designboom. While the lower level will still enable cars to move through, the goal is to create a highly walkable zone in the middle of the city.

Fernando Romero, the lead designer with FR-EE, explains his thinking: “The term ‘Complete Street’ means to reshape the traffic flow and the public spaces. This project inverts the numbers: if nowadays, 70 percent of the area belongs to cars, and 30 percent to the pedestrians, the cultural corridor chapultepec is going to change these numbers by generating a new space in order to have 70 percent belong to the pedestrians and the remaining 30 percent for the organization of the traffic space.”

Heading east to the west, the elevation will gradually increase, as new pedestrian-only features eventually merge, inviting people up onto the elevated promenade.

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Avenida Chapultepec / FR-EE, FRENTE arquitectura, RVDG, and Mario Schjetnan GDU

At street level on the far eastern end, the point closest to Chapultepec Park, hundreds of street trees will be added, along with separate dedicated bus and bicycle lanes, wide pedestrian promenades, and striking linear troughs filled with water.

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Avenida Chapultepec / FR-EE, FRENTE arquitectura, RVDG, and Mario Schjetnan GDU

As people head further west, there are a set of ramps and stairs that will lead people up to the upper level, which will be a tree-lined promenade, with distinct lanes for both pedestrians and bicyclists.

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Avenida Chapultepec / FR-EE, FRENTE arquitectura, RVDG, and Mario Schjetnan GDU

This upper level will also feature shops and cafes.

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Avenida Chapultepec / FR-EE, FRENTE arquitectura, RVDG, and Mario Schjetnan GDU

At the far western end of the avenue, all the way at the end of the linear park, there will be an open-air amphitheater for movies and events. The new avenue is designed to create a sense of discovery, pulling people through to enjoy the safe passage to the views, trees, and public spaces.

While some will say Mexico City is creating a variation on the High Line, the elevated railway park in Chelsea, Manhattan, Romero thinks a closer analogue is Seoul’s transformation of the buried ChonGae Canal, once a busy transportation channel, into a open linear park. Seoul, another of the world’s most mega cities, has created vibrant public spaces with multiple levels along its revitalized waterway. A prime example is Mikyoung Kim’s ChonGae Canal Point Source Park, which leads visitors down to the canal’s edge. Romero says: “Seoul has undertaken many projects with the idea of creating public space, while respecting the existing, often-difficult-to-manipulate infrastructure.”

2 thoughts on “Mexico City’s Ambitious Elevated Park

  1. Noelle 09/02/2015 / 6:13 pm

    What an absolutely wonderful idea. Should think about something like this for Melbourne.

  2. Todd Gastelum 09/11/2015 / 3:59 pm

    My apologies to the author, but it would appear that Mr. Green has drunk the government’s Kool-Aid. This project was recently made public here in Mexico City without any prior public consultation. It’s just another example of a project forced down our throats while being told what’s good for us. Despite what the designer says, this is nothing like Seoul’s Cheonggyecheon project. (A group of grass roots designers did, in fact, come us with a similar plan to dismantle Mexico City’s Viaducto expressway to resuscitate the river buried beneath, but that went nowhere because there is no political will here to tear down an urban highway: http://www.taller13.com/regeneracion-rio-la-piedad) This project is nothing but a horizontal shopping mall bedazzled with some cultural trappings. This is top-down economic “development” at its worst, which is typical for Mexico. This article makes no mention of the fact that Ave. Chapultepec crosses the most rapidly gentrifying zone of the city center. This project is nothing but a smokescreen for the DF government to award construction contracts to its cronies while lining the pockets of developers who own prime tracts along the route. Bottom-up development along the avenue (it’s a grade-level avenue, not an expressway, as stated in the article) has been occurring for years. Chapultepec is already a successful mixed-use, mixed-income thoroughfare whose eastern stretches are home to a vibrant market district which is now being settled by recent Chinese immigrants. Now, if the government has its way, the avenue will be cast in shadows by an unnecessary structure that will make crossing the street north-south more difficult for pedestrians and near impossible for those in wheelchairs. But none of this matters since this entire project is designed to appeal to suburbanites who wouldn’t recognize a successful urban space if they stepped in it.

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