A Horizon in Layers: The Agricultural, the Urban and the In Between
Gabriel Vallés @ Universidad Simón Bolívar, Caracas, Venezuela
The valleys of Aragua, in the north of Venezuela, are an important area of agricultural tradition in the country since the 17th century. And it’s also in the proximity to three of the largest cities in the country, Caracas, Maracay and Valencia, making it an area of high urban growth that threatens the agricultural heritage of the place. The valley is quite narrow and you can identify three layers of well-defined landscape, the mountain ranges north and south, the urban area at the north of the valley and the agricultural void of the Hacienda Santa Teresa, and between which there is no direct relationship more than the proximity.
The Agricultural: In the project, the agricultural void is considered to have an important heritage value for the place, so it seeks to protect it, taking an area in disuse and with great urban pressure of the Hacienda Santa Teresa and transform it in an Agricultural and Sports Park.
The Urban: The south part of El Consejo, the closest to the Hacienda Santa Teresa, is a very depressed area with a significant deficit of services and equipment, the project plan the reactivation of the place with a series of mixed-use buildings that form a network, a footpath of pedestrian mobility and public spaces at a neighborhood scale in the urban plot already consolidated of the town.
The In Between: It is a new layer of landscape that seeks to stop urban growth towards the agricultural void, as well as a transition between urban and agricultural, a place of recognition of these two parts of the geography of the place.
You construct through digital collage, what was your work process in selecting and researching the fragments to then compile?
This trimester the project was focused on urban design and especially to understand the landscape of the place that has historical and cultural values for Venezuela. One of the goals at the end of the course was to capture in different images the vision we had for the town of El Consejo, the Hacienda Santa Teresa and the relationship between these parties, always taking into account the identity of the place and the atmosphere of the landscape. So for the composition of the images I always had in mind the paintings of Venezuelan artists such as Manuel Cabré, Pedro Ángel González and Rafael Monasterios. In the images there is a mixture between the architectural objects proposed by me, stripping them of any kind of materiality since at this stage they were only typologies, real components of the place taken from photographs and a series of elements taken from works of artists such as Edward Hopper, Jack Vettriano and Henri Rousseau, that would help me give the drawing a somewhat romanticized atmosphere reminiscent of a historical moment of urban transformations in Venezuela.
What defined the use of these ‘borrowed’ silhouettes? How do they inform the architecture and subsequently the image?
Being from Caracas and always having been interested in the history of the city, I have a personal baggage of a city that underwent a violent transformation during the first half of the 20th century, from a small agricultural city to a city of millions of inhabitants, with a strong influence of the American cities and the lifestyle of these. During this period of change, Caracas could easily be the scene of a painting by Hopper, so when thinking of El Consejo a small agricultural town that is beginning to have an urban development thanks to its key geographical position within a system of important cities It seemed appropriate to use elements that reminded me of that historical moment in which Caracas suffered these same changes between the 1930s and 1960s.
How important were the sketches in recording and developing the project?
My first approach to a project is always very intuitive and visceral, and drawing is a way of shaping those ideas that at first seem very abstract. In this case, my first approach was to suppose that the Valleys of Aragua are composed as a bar code. The drawing and a deeper analysis of the place helped me to understand that this bar code consists of surfaces of urban and agricultural areas that do not have a connection between them beyond proximity and that those in between spaces were the key to connecting those separate parts, but always keeping their autonomy and their own identity.
How important was the drawing as tool through which to develop the project?
The drawings and sketches were important to help me clarify the ideas and make verifications of what things could or could not work in the place, in terms of scale and proportion. I sometimes tend to do everything in my head and not scratch practically anything until the final presentation of the project when I have to show the work, but in this project, thanks to the that it is of a larger scale and more complex than all the previous ones that I have worked on, it was necessary to translate those ideas on paper and also on the computer, this is the first time that I use the collage technique as an architectural representation and I think that it will become a constant in my work.
What defined the specific drawings through which you seek to reveal the project? How does each talk about a set of values?
In the project there are three layers of landscape, each with its own characteristics and particular dynamics and the drawings seek to show the atmospheres of each of them. There are three key declarations of intent in the project, protect the agricultural cultural landscape, activating a depressed area of the town and transforming the connection between the two, moving from a limit to an edge. Each of these layers is completely autonomous and that is part of the identity of the place for me. It was important to establish in each of these images the visual connections between the layers and to understand that idea of a horizon formed by different parts juxtaposed on each other.