Espacio Escultórico Wins Prestigious International Carlo Scarpa Prize

Awarded the prestigious 2023-2024 International Carlo Scarpa Prize for Gardens, the Espacio Escultórico in Pedregal de San Ángel, Mexico City, is celebrated for its blend of art, nature, and history. This accolade, orchestrated by the Fondazione Benetton Studi Ricerche, shines a spotlight on spaces that embody extraordinary qualities of creativity, historical depth, and natural particularities. After a hiatus spanning decades since the prize’s first journey to Latin America in 1990, this recognition marks a return, emphasizing the region’s rich cultural and ecological landscapes.

Espacio Escultórico comprises an assembly of sixty-four concrete prisms arranged in a monumental circle with a diameter of 120 meters. This architectural gem encases an area of supposedly ‘intact’ lava, a vivid testament to the site’s geological origins and its dynamic, evolving nature. Emerging from a terrain forged by the Xitle volcano’s eruption approximately 1,500 to 2,000 years ago, the Pedregal area—meaning literally ‘stony ground’—is a mosaic of vegetation-clad lava rock, morphologically diverse and rich in historical resonances.

Since its inauguration in 1979 by the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM), the Espacio Escultórico has seen many thinkers and theoreticians who interpreted the site through the lens of the relationship between human creativity and the forces of nature. This site transcends the mere aesthetic, engaging with the broader dialogues of environmental conservation, cultural identity, and transformations brought about by urban expansion.

The creation of the Espacio Escultórico was a collaborative effort, bringing together six prominent artists from the Escuela Nacional de Artes Plásticas. This group, including Helen Escobedo, Manuel Felguérez, Mathias Goeritz, Hersúa, Sebastián and Federico Silva, sought to create a work that was harmonious with the landscape’s existing conditions and rich historical tapestry, focusing on ecological themes rather than human-centric narratives. This collective endeavour not only resulted in a landmark of artistic and environmental significance but also sparked a movement towards the preservation of the Pedregal’s remaining areas, culminating in the establishment of the Reserva Ecológica del Pedregal de San Ángel (REPSA) by UNAM in 1983.

The Espacio Escultórico’s recognition by the Carlo Scarpa Prize underscores its role as a space that fosters both introspection and community engagement. The design is abstract enough to offer different interpretations, although it seems quite unambiguously based on the modernist nature—culture dichotomy. As such, it challenges us to reflect on the relationship between artistic endeavours and an ecological position.

Published on February 26, 2024

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