ANDES SHADOW is a video installation by elton_léniz architectural studio and Fundación Caserta, on display from May 28 to November 27, 2016, at the International Architectural Exhibit: REPORTING FROM THE FRONT, curated by Pritzker Prize winning Chilean Architect Alejandro Aravena, at La Biennale di Venezia.
At the end of summer 2016 this video installation was created recording aspects of everyday life in five schools in Peñalolén (Santiago – Chile); the outdoor activities of pupils from these schools in the Andes; and the first building out of a project of nineteen, which will allow the Fundación Caserta’s activities to take place at Parque Likandes all year round, come rain or shine.
Architects Mirene Elton and Mauricio Léniz have addressed the importance of the site specific user experience. This approach has modified their response to commissions from the public and private sectors, counting for more than a hundred thousand square metres of buildings in northern, central and southern Chile.
Fundación Caserta commissioned the infrastructure for this project, to expand the scope and reach of an innovative educational proposal and enhance the services offered by Parque Likandes. In its next phase the park aims to receive twenty thousand people per year, in an area of one hundred and eighty-eight hectares together with four thousand square metres of buildings.
Now, we are all in a distant survey, from Venice, sharing as William Anders, our wonder.
Learning from nature for how to survive marginality and urban violence
In the world we have been able to reduce poverty but not inequalities. Cities, despite being efficient vehicles to defeat poverty, unfortunately reflect in space, without mercy, all the inequalities of a given society. Public education is crucial for correcting inequalities; the assumption is that better education gives access to better jobs and better income may allow a family to achieve a better quality of life. But transferring knowledge and contents within the classroom is not even close to being the main purpose of a public school in an underserved periphery of a developing country. Before teaching how to read and write, a school is a canteen (a way to guarantee nutrition) and a shelter (including access to drinkable water, sewage or protection from rain among others that may not be guaranteed at home). But above all a school is many times a fortress that is there in the first place to protect children against urban violence, drug dealing and other threats to a child's physical integrity.
Elton and Léniz have been working with Fundación Caserta to use nature as a way to introduce a different notion of education for vulnerable children. The starting point is nature as a relief and escape from the aggressive environment that they have to bare every day of their lives. They have been exploring a redefinition of the notion of classroom so that a more direct interaction with nature can allow children to experience nature as a healing space. Basic architectural elements (roofs, walls, frames, shade, roads) are expected to create a primordial life experience in the relation between body, community and geography. It is interesting how the whole history of human settlements is reversed: cities were the safe place that protected people from a threatening nature. For too many people in the world, it is exactly the opposite: the city is the threat and nature may be the only way out. What Elton and Léniz are trying to do is to identify new paradigms in educational spaces so that this new notion of a school can introduce, in many cases for the first time in their lives, some kind of self esteem for the children; be able to read nature, experience its beauty and may be the only notion of culture that may make sense in the peripheries of the world. Some people have defined culture as what you remember after closing the book; in this case culture may be redefined as what you know before even opening one.
Enabling nature as a classroom
“As we wander through this piece of landscape we are stirred by its kindness. The dawn light hides behind the pinnacle of Likan, until the sun soars and tempers the valley. We walk along paths among acacia caves, cacti and native trees that have been there for all time. The sound of water running through the rocks accompanies us. We are at the foot of the Andes, the most significant geographical point for all of us, the prime architecture of our territory.
Apparently disaggregated, a set of archetypical buildings around the only existing plain constitutes what we call the village, a place for the transient community of the park. Here, everyday acts become part of the learning of the clan and each building has a special function. In the vernacular tradition of the Andes, settlements are established in the territory according to astral geometry, stone and wood shape them, bringing us closer to the history of forgotten ruins.
Now, in the middle of the crossing of Parque Likandes, children rest in the shade. Fresh air from the Andes runs between the slabs of the Shadow Pavilion. While pausing, children can relax and draw the landscape around them, contemplate the diversity of the ecosystem, drink water and continue down the path to another workstation. This construction, elemental and simple, is the first of nineteen buildings, a prototype for an educational experience where nature is the platform for learning, in which architecture revises the meaning of the classroom.”
Delivering a tansformative experience
Francisca Cortés Solari, President Fundación Caserta
"A good, transformative, learning experience is one where what has been learned is vital, relevant, memorable and broadens our horizons. Learning occurs from doing, feeling, knowing and transcending with others, which then remains in our memories in a corporeal, emotional and spiritual form binding our cognitive development into a cohesive whole.
At the Fundación Caserta we believe that fully developed people, cultivate their happiness, generate social well-being, and care for our environment. Since 2003, we have been working on designing learning experiences that will contribute to humankind’s development.
We have systemically accompanied the educational communities, with programmes for principals, teachers, students and parents. These programmes have complemented formal education and take place in a natural environment to produce something that is both deep and profound.
We have sought a place in the Andes, a place of silence, where each step would be delicate and subtle. A mountain to honour, as done by the indigenous people of our country, we yearn for a place to shelter us by day and night, through all seasons, and to invite the natural environment to be our master.
With this inspiration in mind, we studied our natural and cultural heritage, and then we commissioned elton_léniz to design the architecture for Parque Likandes, a natural laboratory supporting a paradigm shift in education."