Friday 13 December 2013

Places of memory in Chile: Parque Cultural de Valparaiso

Valparaiso has an unusual cultural park situated in a former prison, which operated from 1906 to 1999.

The site is still very obviously an ex-jail. At one point, Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer was controversially commissioned to change it into a fully-fledged cultural centre, but the plan was eventually dropped. Instead, the park was designed by Jonathan Holmes, Martin Labbé, Carolina Portugueis and Osvaldo Spichiger - the Architectural Review has a lot more detail on this.

This message, drawing to the jail as a detention and torture centre during the dictatorship, was sprayed onto the pavement outside the site.

La Tercera has an article about a photographic exhibition which took place in the park this year, which unfortunately I didn't get the chance to see, but it featured works by Nelson Muñoz Mera taken just after the prison stopped working. Very interesting images, check them out

Someone in Valparaiso remarked to me that it was a bit odd to go to a concert in a former prison, but as regular readers of this blog know, I am a fan of using sites of memory and not locking them away or preserving them in aspic, so I don't really have a problem with it. Whether former prisoners would want to go back and see it now is of course another matter, but the city is not sweeping its past under the carpet here, it's making use of it, and I like that.

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