La Quebradora Water Park / Taller Capital

La Quebradora Water Park / Taller Capital

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Text description provided by the architects. Mexico City, the fifth-largest city in the world, faces severe problems that make it increasingly precarious and difficult to inhabit. One of the city’s main issues has historically been water management. In a paradoxical situation of water stress and excessive rainfall, the Basin of the Valley of Mexico presents serious problems for both the urban and natural environments and its inhabitants.

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This reality is exacerbated in some areas of the city, such as the Borough of Iztapalapa, the most populous in Mexico City, which concentrates the highest number of people living in poverty and segregation and has few, almost nonexistent, public spaces. Due to its geographical situation, which includes part of the Sierra Santa Catarina and a good portion of what was Lake Texcoco, the area has historically suffered from overcrowding, lack of urban planning, and a high number of informal housing, leading to flooding and water shortages.

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The Parque Hídrico La Quebradora emerges as the first proposal for a Hydrourban Acupuncture clinic, with the capacity to address some of the water and social issues faced by this district. In an area with high density and little public space, the project transforms urban infrastructure into a public and recreational space for the community.

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The project is situated on the land, taking as an example the traditional way of working with the landscape in Mexico by constructing consolidated platforms from local volcanic stone walls. Platforms, plazas, and walkways create routes through a 3.8-hectare plot both north-south and east-west. All these are accompanied by a palette of endemic or highly rooted vegetation. Additionally, the platforms contain various buildings that complement the program, housing a bookstore/library, workshops, sports spaces, and a large community center.

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The proposal by the team from the Institute of Social Research at UNAM, coordinated by Dr. Manuel Perló Cohen and Architect Loreta Castro Reguera Mancera, consists of turning the infiltration capacity of the land into a milestone of good water management, generation of public space, and strengthening of social fabric. To achieve this, a project is proposed that operates on different levels to solve many of the problems generated in the area:

  • Urban infrastructure becomes public space
  • Directly benefits 28,000 inhabitants
  • The space is configured through platforms
  • Mitigates flooding
  • Improves water quality and infiltrates it into the subsoil
  • Triples the current tree cover with endemic species
  • Facilitates pedestrian mobility and accessibility to public transport
  • Its architecture materializes through local volcanic stone
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The project, developed by UNAM between 2013 and 2017, involved an intense research program, collaboration between different disciplines, and facing a complex political environment. In 2018, it was awarded the Global Gold Medal and the Latin America Region Award of the Holcim Awards for Sustainable Construction. It also received recognition from the CAF and other institutions.

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Construction began in 2017. In 2018, after the elections that year, it was halted. However, the effort made during the design phase to involve the community in the project was crucial for its restart in 2019. After two years, the project was inaugurated. Some important components of the project were omitted, such as the wastewater treatment system with a treatment plant and wetlands, as well as the reuse of this water in restrooms. Solar panels for achieving energy sustainability were also eliminated.

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La Quebradora set an important precedent. It was renamed Utopía Atzintli, becoming part of the program established by the local government of the Borough of Iztapalapa between 2018 and 2024, promoting the transformation of abandoned areas into similar projects. The park receives around 7,000 weekly visitors. It functions as a space for the regulation and infiltration of rainwater runoff, as well as a meeting place for cultural, sports, and general recreational activities. It is worth noting that it includes a space dedicated to the protection and assistance of women victims of violence.

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