Sunday, February 1, 2009

Winning Entry // Central Glass Int. Design Competition 2008

Central Glass International Competition: "Architecture Coexisting with World Heritages Sites"
First Prize : René Davids (with Taylor Medlin)

The Central Glass Competition sponsored by Shinkenchiku-sha Co of Tokyo invited proposals that would encourage visits to the UNESCO World Heritages Sites while simultaneously protecting them from the damage and environmental destruction caused by crowds of visitors. The program was open and entrants could choose to work with any of the 878 sites on the World Heritage List.

The Chilean port city of Valparaíso was established as a World Heritage Site in 2003, largely to protect the environment in which its ascensores (hillside inclined elevators) were created and in which they are still needed and used. The city offered the opportunity to design and develop ideas related to a World Heritage Site that is both an integral part of the fabric of everyday life and contains the most memorable feature of its urban landscape – form, symbol and function all at once.

Valparaíso is one of the most distinctive urban environments in all of South America. An abrupt change of level occurs between the coastal strip and the foothills rising in an arc to a height of almost 2,000 feet, forming steep cliffs which separate Valparaíso into two levels hundreds of feet apart. Upper and lower areas of the city cities are tenuously connected by streets winding up the ravines, steep stairways and a network of fifteen nearly vertical pedestrian elevators, or ascensores.

Prosperous in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Valparaíso began a slow decline when the opening of the Panama Canal eliminated much of the ship traffic around Cape Horn. The consolidation of commerce and industry in the capital city of Santiago to the east and the neighboring city of Viña del Mar to the north also damaged Valparaíso’s prosperity. An increase in the number of paved streets to accommodate cars and buses, and construction of new facilities for convenient mass transit in the hills gradually reduced the need for the ascensores, leaving many in a state of disrepair.

We propose to encourage the use of the Valparaíso Heritage Site by providing the city with wind-generated electricity, a new technology that, like the ascensores, will encourage commercial expansion and continue to foster a sense of community, creating new icons that emphasize the importance of the ascensores while establishing the beginnings of a twenty-first century economic urban revival. Our proposal consists of two interrelated concepts:

1) To take advantage of Valparaiso’s extremely windy conditions, we propose the creation of wind-powered electric generators on the plateau above Valparaíso’s steep slopes. The electricity would be generated through lighter-than-air, wind-driven turbines that rotate about a horizontal axis, then transferred down a series of 1000-foot tethers for immediate use, more efficiently and economically than that produced by traditional wind turbines. The turbines would be located directly in line with the ascensores and create icons for a new era while simultaneously highlighting the technological marvels of an earlier industrial age.

2) "Plug-in pavilions" connected to the upper terminals of the ascensores would be created where free electricity could be made available to impoverished inhabitants of Valparaíso, gathering places where they could plug in and use their sewing machines, electric tools, computers and cook-tops, thus re-enforcing a sense of community, creating opportunities for commerce to flourish, and establishing the motivation for people from other communities and visiting tourists alike to ride the top of the ascensores. Constructed of permanently inflated material, the pavilions would shift in size according to the wind conditions and glow like lanterns at night.

1 comment:

  1. I was in Valparaiso over break (facebook yeah :0, what a coincidence ...I actually have a few snapshot of this tram. interesting article,, chau