Chilean capital’s San Borja Park to host sculpture museum

An ambitious renovation program will see the city center park welcome a permanent exhibition by renowned Chilean sculptor Mario Irrarazábal.

Bigger doesn’t always mean better — a truism demonstrated by Santiago’s diminutive downtown green refuge, Parque San Borja. The park may pale in comparison size-wise to the city’s famous Cerro San Cristobal and its sprawling green space, but this miniature leafy hideaway has long been a favorite of students from adjacent university campuses and office workers sneaking away for a bit of lunch-time relaxation.

Now San Borja’s downtown location — adjacent to various artsy neighborhoods and several popular museums — has caught the attention of city planners keen to expand the area as part of a circuit of culture spots with the aim to draw in locals and tourists alike. To this end, the park will be completely renovated and become the site of an exciting new open-air sculpture museum — a popular theme in a city which already boasts several renowned outdoor exhibition spaces.

This art injection was made possible by acclaimed Chilean sculptor Mario Irrarázabal who donated almost 160 works to the project. The artist — best known for the Hand of the Desert sculpture in the country’s arid north and a further work on the human hand in Uruguay’s Punta del Este — said the idea of an outdoor exhibition is something he had been hoping to realize for several years.

“We were looking for a park that wasn’t too well known but close to everything. That’s why we chose San Borja, we want the works to be within reach of the world so they can be photographed, so people can climb on them and make them a part of their visit to the park,” he told La Tercera.

Irrarárazabal’s smaller works will be housed in a handy transparent pavilion which will double as a space for a café and the museum’s administration center.

Santiago Mayor Carolina Tohá said the project, which will get underway next year, will cement San Borja as part of the growing “cultural circuit” in the area, connecting the Museo Violeta Parra on the nearby Vicuña Mackenna thoroughfare and the new Museo Humano with well-established attractions in the area.

“[At the moment] the park is a little under-visited so we want to invigorate it and make it a place for the capital’s residents and tourists,” she said. “Especially, because it will be connected to the surrounding cultural centers and the university, something which will allow the dynamic of the [Centro Cultural Gabriela Mistral or GAM] and the Lastarria neighborhood to be spread to this area.”

To this end, the park’s renovation will also be accompanied by a partial pedestrianization of the adjacent Avenida Portugal to ease the flow of passers-by and tourists around the city’s booming artsy neighborhoods.