“Thousands of abandoned or underutilized airports exist around the world, and these redundant infrastructures present extraordinary opportunities for addressing the social, economic, and ecological challenges confronted by cities today.” – Office for Urbanization, 2017
The city of Mendoza, Argentina presents a unique opportunity to examine the extraordinary benefits that the transformation of decommissioned airfields might bring to the city and its inhabitants. The Mendoza Aeroparque is a 72-hectare decommissioned airfield sitting at the western edge of the Andean city in a strategic position between the foothills and the high plains. The Aeroparque sits today behind concrete walls surrounded by the ongoing urbanization of a 1200-hectare district spanning two municipalities and host to various social, natural, economic and urban challenges. The twin municipalities of Mendoza and Las Heras belong to a the larger metropolitan area along with five other municipalities including Godoy Cruz, Guaymallén, Luján, Maipú and Lavalle. Taken together, these department make up Greater Mendoza, a metropolitan area with 1,900,000 inhabitants. Mendoza is among the world capitals of wine production and is known for this specific agricultural, commercial, and tourist economy. Mendoza’s high desert climate features warm summers and very cold winters. Mendoza is presently the fourth largest metropolitan area in the country. Situated in the Precordilleras de la Rioja, San Juan y Mendoza, the city was established in 1561 in an alluvial high plain whose ecological input dictated the organizational logic of its urban form. The region is predominantly a desert due to low levels of precipitation; however, pre-Hispanic water management techniques engineered the land to be amenable to human life. The city’s grid was designed to capture Andean snowmelt and provide an urban oasis through a system of channels called “acequias.” These channels form the morphological and hydrological logic of the city’s spatial structure. During the second half of the twentieth century, urban expansion advanced from the plain up into the mountains, occupying parts of the piedmont ecosystem of the Andean slope. The Mendoza Aeroparque, an exception to this historical line of urban expansion, is a major land area whose ecology can generate new sensitive urban forms.
This research report proposes a series of recommendations for the future transformation of the Mendoza Aeroparque. The Aeroparque’s location and surrounding conditions provide the ideal setting for a strategic urban plan that binds together multiple scales of impact and reprograms available land with mixed uses. Its objective is to share with local stakeholders a set of spatial considerations where landscape and ecology are the media of new urban form. These recommendations were structured following two site visits by the Office to Mendoza, Argentina in December 2016 and March 2017. Both visits comprise part of a half-year research project led by Principal Investigator Charles Waldheim and Research Associate Pedro Aparicio at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design in Cambridge, MA. During each site visit, engagement with public officials, technical experts, the academic community, and local citizens offered nuanced visions about the challenges and opportunities that this airfield conversion might entail.
Project Team: Charles Waldheim (PI), Pedro Aparicio, Sara Favargiotti, Mariano Gomez-Luque, Matthew Moffitt, Ruben Segovia, Dana Shaikh Solaiman, Ximena de Villafranca, and David Zielnicki.