PRES Constitución

In Execution


In 2010, an 8.8 Richter scale magnitude earthquake hit Chile. We resisted the earthquake well but not the tsunami that came with it. Almost 500 people died. After the natural catastrophe, we were called to work in the reconstruction of Constitución, in the southern part of the country, which was almost completely destroyed. We were given 100 days, three months, to design almost everything: from public buildings to public space, street grid, transportation, housing, and mainly how to protect the city against future tsunamis.

Including the community in the way of finding a solution, we started a participatory design process that aimed to identify with precision what were the issues to assess, because there is nothing worse than answering well the wrong question.

Against geographical threats geographical answers. We put this approach at the core of our proposal, and designed a forest in between the city and the sea that wouldn’t try to resist the energy of nature, but dissipates it by introducing friction. When the waves first hit Constitución, they were 12 meters tall; a forested island to the north of the city dissipated their energy and, by the time they reached the city centre, they were only 6 meters tall. Our idea was therefore to protect the city by redeveloping the riverfront with trees.

This alternative was the most challenging, politically and socially, because it required the city to expropriate private land. However, it was validated by the people and government. The forest would be able to prevent flooding, to pay the historical debt of public space (before the tsunami struck, there were only 2.2 sqm of public space per person, with riverfront forest that would increase to 6.6), and to provide democratic access to the river (the plots around the river were privately owned at that time).

PRES still have projects under development.

  • Location
    Constitución | Chile
  • Project Year
  • Client
    PRES Constitución Consortium:
    Ministerio de Vivienda y Urbanismo (MINVU)
    Constitución Municipality
  • Associated Company
    Tironi Asociados
    Fundación Chile Marketek
    Universidad de Talca
  • Photography
    Jose Luis Rissetti | VD
    El Mercurio