Nancagua City Hall: A New Public Threshold

Site Plan: Natural and built heritage
A colonnade mediates between the new public square and the old park
Public square facing the city
First floor gallery, north wing
A gallery formed by concrete columns shapes the public void
First floor plan: Gallery and offices
Ground floor plan: Public services and parking
Transversal sections through public square
Colonnade between square and park
Public square overlooking the park
Below the bridge
A bridge connects both gallery wings on the 1st floor

Primary Authors

  • Alejandro Beals Vaccaro
  • Loreto Lyon Nuno

Contributing Authors

  • Philip Zurman (Collaborator Architect )
  • B y B Ingeniería (Structural Engineer)

Author

  • Wilson Duarte (Mayor)

Photographers

  • Felipe Fontecilla Ventura

Objectives

The new public square aims to connect the city with the park, bringing both situations closer and allowing for a novel experience by passing through it. A gallery formed by a regular colonnade is what defines and unifies this square, as with other spaces with high civic spirit, as the agora of Assos in Greece or the Piazza San Marco in Venice; spaces that build a noticeable gap, a public void which makes them unique and memorable. The dimensions and proportions of this gallery are borrowed from the one on the old mansion house nearby (former City Hall), and that limits the north side of the park. This strategy contributes to the continuity of the public space, beyond the image of an isolated iconic building. The new square limits with the City Hall galleries’ on its two longer sides, whilst the other two ends face situations with a strong public vocation, the city and the public park respectively. The project reacts differently to each one of them: while to the street it creates a void corner which opens to the city, to the park it builds a concrete portico and steps overlooking it. These two extremes effectively connect the city with the park, in a gradual and continuous sequence. This architectural strategy reverts the sense of neglect towards the centennial town park, uncovering it and drawing it closer to the town.

Context

The new City Hall building of Nancagua, a small rural town in Central Chile devastated by the last major earthquake in 2010, aims to create a space able to accommodate various public situations and events. At the same time, and due to its proximity to the town’s public park and buildings of historic relevance, its position becomes an opportunity to recover and shed light on the local heritage, both built and natural. It does so by shaping a public void, a threshold or in between space that links the city with the old and currently mostly overlooked Municipal Park and the buildings around it. Whilst the competition brief asked to design a council building, the project proposes the creation of a new public space and a building around it.

Performance

The new square has already triggered a process of recovery and renovation of the park and its surroundings. Now the park is noticeable from the city, and people traverse the square to get closer to it. The public square has become a reference point within the city, being intensively used as a cultural and meeting place, but also giving prominence to the local heritage around. The gallery surrounding the square acts as a safeguard of the public space, a sort of permanent veil that keeps behind the administrative offices, whose future use remains unpredictable by nature and subject to the public employees’ criteria. On a smaller scale, this place holds an important part of the everyday life that happens in and around the building, providing a meeting and resting place for people visiting or working at the council.

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Site Plan: Natural and built heritage