As part of the Global LafargeHolcim Awards handover program in Mexico City, guests were invited to visit the main winning project – a publicly accessible water retention and treatment complex “La Quebradora.” Among the participants was Lia Leutenegger, a student from Switzerland, who summarizes her experience as follows.
The project "Hydropuncture – The Shaping of Water" in Mexico City inspired me from the moment I heard about it: the idea of combining a water treatment plant with a public park is, in my opinion, more than prize-worthy. But only when I visited the construction site did I fully realize how urgent and meaningful this project really is.
After a long drive through the city we reach the park. Everyone we asked for directions along the way knew immediately what we were looking for. We arrive at the construction site, but we are not allowed to enter, despite our arrangements. The site is strictly guarded and enclosed by a high wall. We aren’t even allowed to get out of our vehicle – too dangerous. A little later, Loreta Castro, project author, joins us with her husband and little daughter. “This is one of the city’s most notorious streets – dark, surrounded by high, continuous walls. Here you are completely unnoticed,” explains Loreta, who together with Manuel Perló won the Global LafargeHolcim Awards Gold 2018. “The new park will attract many people, which makes this road safer. In addition, we are tearing down the walls and replacing them with mesh fencing; then you will be able to see from the park what is happening on the street – and it will let in a lot of light.”
The first coffee house in the neighborhood
Shortly afterwards, we are able to enter with a guard. There is unexpected bustle on the construction site. “The government desperately wants the construction work to be completed before the next elections,” explains the architect. Despite the many workers, the scene is not chaotic at all, but it is very loud and visibility is impaired by black smoke from the motors of the trucks.
The two open water reservoirs are already completed. The water in them is still murky and covered with foam. Rising in sharp contrast above them is a ramp, freshly planted with an array of indigenous vegetation that will connect the upper and lower sections of the park. The slope culminates with a staircase that seems to lead nowhere. “This will be an entrance later,” explains Loreta. “The large building next to the park is one of the busiest churches in the city. Every day thousands of people come here for their prayers.”
Right next to it, the treatment plant is being built. The men are working at a height of 10 meters, secured by a hemp lifeline attached to their belt. They seem to weld without a face mask. But everyone is wearing a yellow safety vest – that’s what the regulations require. The first coffee house in the neighborhood is being built in front of the plant. “That’s what the people we interviewed said they wanted the most,” says Loreta. “Today you have to drive 20 minutes toward the city center to find a place to have a coffee.”
As our tour ends, I asked if similar facilities are being planned. The architect says her team has already identified some promising locations. Each location carries new challenges – but she is confident that she will soon be able to apply the concept elsewhere.