Slicing through downtown Mexico City, Chapultepec Avenue splits part of the city in two. With 10 lanes of chaotic traffic, it’s hard to cross the street, hard to bike, and generally not a place where people want to spend time.
But now it’s being reinvented as a park. At street level, most of the road will be closed to cars, with a wide, tree-covered promenade, new lanes added for cyclists, skaters, people in wheelchairs, and strollers. New pedestrian crossings add shortcuts to nearby subway and bus lines. On top of the road, a new platform will extend the park and shade the people below. It’ll look a little like New York City’s High Line.
“Today, the street is a turmoil of sidewalks in terrible shape, filled with commercial and food stalls, broken floors, garage ramps, etc.,” says Fernando Romero, founder of FR-EE, the lead architecture firm for the redesign. “The food stalls throw waste on the ground, so it stinks and is dirty. It is pretty much an adventure for the thousands of people who walk daily there. Pedestrians use the bike lane, which is more open, and so cyclists have a hard time as well.”
The new promenade will bring together Zona Rosa and Condesa-Roma, two neighborhoods that are disconnected by the current highway. “The avenue works today as a barrier between both sides,” Romero says. “Our project will trigger an interaction between them by means of establishing secure and appealing crossovers.” That new connection will also make it more likely that neighbors can walk–or easily make it to public transportation–if they need to make it to another part of the city.
The design will also flip priorities on the street: Today, cars get almost 90% of the road space. After the road is redeveloped, cars will have 30% of the space, and pedestrians 70%.
For the designers, it’s a way to bring the street back to its original status as a lab for urban experimentation–Aztecs built a historic aqueduct along the road to bring water to Mexico City in the 1400s, the first electric streetcar in Mexico was built on the street in 1900, and the first subway in the 1960s.
The new park is designed to run on solar power, the decks and made from recycled plastic, and the local, native plants will be watered with recycled rainwater. The plants and shading are also designed to cut the urban heat island effect.
It may serve as inspiration for other parts of Mexico. “Not only in other parts of the city, but even elsewhere in the country,” Romero says. “This is the most important infrastructure project of the current mayor.”