Ciudad Abierta: a hidden architectural jewel on the Chilean coast

In the late 1960s on the pacific coast of Chile, a group of professors and students from the Universidad Católica de Valparaiso formed Cooperativa Amereida and embarked on a journey to re-envision the concept of continent, community and architecture. The group of almost seventy people purchased just under 300 hectares on the Chilean coast in what would become Ciudad Abierta de Ritoque.

Las Celdas photo: Ben Bookout
Las Celdas photo: Ben Bookout

There are some profound concepts driving the realization of Ciudad Abierta. In a simple sense, Cooperativa Amereida wanted to make life, work and study one functioning unit. The first action was to poetically open the land. From the initial ceremony, it took ten years for the group to realize they were staring at a new continent, Amereida. They thought of this new continent as a gift manifested through personal discovery, rather than a new world to be discovered like the concept of America. The realization of Ciudad Abierta would be in direct response to the sprawling mega city.

Hospederia de la Entrada photo: Ben Bookout
Hospederia de la Entrada photo: Ben Bookout

The first installation in Ciudad Abierta was the Agora, named after the place where the ancient Greeks debated about the city. The design philosophy behind the structures and spaces at Ciudad Abierta is the physical manifestation of poetry and the use of the ronda; a design process that involves architects, poets, artist, sculptors and so on. Through this process the hospederías, vestales, and outdoor installations were formed. The results of this integrated process, such as the Hospedería del Taller de Obras, Las Celdas and Hospedería de la Entrada, and outdoor installations such as Torre de Agua and Del Suelo a la Tesla, speak for themselves.

Torre de Agua photo: Ben Bookout
Torre de Agua photo: Ben Bookout

In a larger sense these installations are examples of deconstructivism, a movement in architecture thought of as a response to the straight lines of modernism. In some cases they were twenty years before the likes of Frank Gehry (Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain) or Rem Koolhaus (Seattle Public Library). It is interesting to think such innovative designs were, and still are, taking place in a relatively unknown location on the coast of Chile. Does this place perhaps deserve more recognition? It could be that the professors, students, artists and poets of Ciudad Abierta are happy with the community they have in Amerida and don't want the exposure to the surrounding larger continent.

Although the place is hard to find and to access, the residents of Ciudad Abierta welcome visitors in the same fashion you would invite someone to your house. They view such visits as a vital part of the dialogue for improving life in Ciudad Abierta. Let them know a week ahead if you plan to visit, and bear in mind they ask an entrance fee of $1,500 pesos. It is suggested that you visit on a Wednesday as many of the professors from Universidad Católica de Valparaiso are there and can answer questions.

Ciudad Abierta is located approximately 16 kilometers north of Valparaiso at coordinates 32º53`South 71º 30`West. Buses from Valparaiso or Viña to Quinteros will get visitors there.

Sources: www.amereida.cl/
wiki.ead.pucv.cl/index.php/Ritoque:_Ciudad_Abierta
scinl33.wordpress.com/

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