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Competition: Santiago Emergent Ecologies, Chile

An international ideas contest has been launched for a new ecologically-sensitive park development on the edge of Santiago, Chile (Deadline: 31 July)

Open to students and professionals, the competition seeks ‘concrete’ proposals for sustainable development on a peri-urban site bordering the El Roble nature reserve.

Located west of the capital within the Cordillera de la Costa mountains, the 88,520-hectare protected zone is a refuge for native fauna and flora but is increasingly at the mercy of unregulated commercial activities.



Santiago contest site

According to the brief: ‘The objective is to take this site as an opportunity to generate new meanings for the peri-urban areas of Santiago, creating productive landscape that at the same time can protect biodiversity and promote a better relationship with the environment; imagining new ways and opportunities to live in the areas surrounding the city.’

The competition focusses on a 998 hectare sloping site known as Fundo San Francisco located on the fringes of Santiago’s sprawling Maipu and Padre Hurtado suburbs.

Absorbed by the city during the 1970s – Maipu is now one of Chile’s largest suburbs with 500,000 inhabitants and is only 35 minutes from the contest site.



Santiago contest site

Rising to 975 metres – the rural plot features large areas of protected natural landscape alongside orchards, dairy farms and cycle routes used for annual tours. Plans for a solar plant in the area are also under consideration.

Nearby environmental threats include a nuclear power station, a landfill and several mining facilities.

Proposals should feature ‘creative and innovative’ strategies for urbanisation which protect biodiversity and promote its value in Chilean society.

Concepts which create new public space infrastructure and focus on localised agricultural production and consumption are also encouraged.

Organised by Adolfo Ibañez University, the contest features a scientific panel including academics from the Architectural Association and Harvard Graduate School of Design from which the jury will be selected.

Digital submissions – prepared in either English or Spanish – must include three A1 boards detailing the project and museum installation alongside a ten-page A3 brochure.

Teams may feature up to six participants and must include at least one student in the field of design, architecture, urbanism or landscape architecture.

The winning team – set to be announced 5 September – will receive $5,000 USD and see their proposals featured in an installation at the Santiago Museum of Contemporary Art.

A $1,500 USD travel and accommodation allowance will also be granted to attend the award ceremony. Up to seven honourable mentions will furthermore be announced.

How to apply


The deadline for submissions is 31 July


$50 USD

Contact details

Adolfo Ibañez University
Diagonal Las Torres 2640
Región Metropolitana

View the competition website for more information

MOLEWA case study: Q&A with Laurie Chetwood

The founder of Chetwoods Architects discusses lessons learned designing an 80 hectare flower garden development in China

How did your MOLEWA project respond to Mount Lu’s local culture, natural landscape and ecology?

Our conceptual start to the MOLEWA (Mount Lu Estate of World Architecture) masterplan was to use the history and context of Mount Lu to determine the hierarchy, sequence and flow of spaces and places to embed the plan in its cultural and environmental context, within an 80 hectare ‘Flower Ocean’.

We applied a nine-in-one square template (the geometric basis of ancient Chinese architecture, urban planning and geography dating back to Bronze Age urbanisation in the region) as the principle behind the wider urban grid of our masterplan. We amalgamated this concept and a one-hectare urban block based on the proportion of the Fibonacci golden section to create twenty plots for twenty architects and established a formal set of principles to define MOLEWA.



MOLEWA masterplan by Chetwoods Architects

The vision for the project also owes much to other Chinese cultural references. The idea that humanity can have a mutually beneficial relationship with the biological world is the foundation of the 5000 year-old tradition of Chinese agriculture. The masterplan explores the idea of a ‘cultural landscape’ where there is a spiritual relationship of people with nature, reflecting the integration of the natural beauty of the Mount Lu region with its historic buildings and features. Mount Lu is also an historical focal point for the integration of Chinese and Western cultures and our approach to the masterplan drew on Eastern and Western input and skills via a collaborative charrette process with the client and local stakeholders.

How would you set about designing a peri-urban park for Santiago which changes local development approaches towards natural ecology?

As you can see from above, in the case of MOLEWA the culture was the driving force behind the design, in another context it might be something else.

Viewing a city masterplan in a broader regional context is essential, with every city part of a unique urban-rural ecosystem. Sustainable city development requires focus both on the built environment and infrastructure, and its interaction with local natural and ecological resources. It also important to identify and incorporate the best practical initiatives for improving wellbeing and quality of life in the city and the surrounding region.

When designing a project which is environmentally and ecologically based there is a whole host of worthy initiatives which could be addressed. The clever trick is to identify which ones are the worthiest. This can only be done by creating an ammunition dump of information, putting a spark to it and seeing what results from the explosion – hopefully it becomes clear which worthy initiatives ought to take precedent.

In MOLEWA we had the opportunity to discuss, review and learn from people in the area and to try to understand the culture and sensitivities that were important to them. The problem is that a competitor has to create their own ammo dump and hope that they are somewhere near the mark in their assumptions about it. Years ago, before the Internet creating this was difficult, now the information is widely available which is incredibly useful.



MOLEWA masterplan by Chetwoods Architects

What material, ecological, structural and other techniques are available to designers seeking to achieve a similarly impressive impact?

The MOLEWA team created a technical platform which stakeholders and consultants alike bought into using the latest technologies available which can help support an environmental and ecological initiative. This enabled us to collate, refine and clarify local data on topography, soils, water, land use, infrastructure, utilities, ecology, weather, disaster risk, local economy and population. It provided a bespoke overview of the environmental, social and economic elements to inform the design process.

There are many software packages and green building design and performance resources available such as GRESB, and Safaira and TAS environmental software. In addition the World Green Building Council, WRAP (Online Resource Efficiency Tools for Waste and Resource efficiency), and the International Well Building Institute’s Well Guidance ‘WELL’ (a performance-based system for measuring, certifying, and monitoring features of the built environment that impact human health and well-being, through air, water, nourishment, light, fitness, comfort and mind). BREEAM International now encourages standards for all stages of sustainable design, addressing energy, health & well-being, innovation, land use, materials, management, pollution, transport, waste and water.



MOLEWA masterplan by Chetwoods Architects