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May 11, 2012

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The Future of the Ruta de la Amistad

Posted by Daniela Pérez Fernández, Director of Communications for Patronato Ruta de la Amistad A.C.
World Monuments Fund

One of the most outstanding projects created as a result of the 1968 Mexico Cultural Olympics, the Ruta de la Amistad, or Road of Friendship, is the world’s largest sculpture corridor. The 17-kilometer route is made up of 19 stations (sculptures) built in concrete by artists from the five continents, with heights ranging from 7 to 26 meters. Three additional sculptures were built near the sports stadiums used for the games.

After the Olympic Games, the Ruta de la Amistad was completely abandoned for 25 years, during which it faced disturbances from rapid urban growth.

Since 1994, the Patronato Ruta de la Amistad A.C. has restored, conserved, and advocated for this legacy by engaging embassies and private and public institutions to participate in the donation of in-kind resources and actions. Today the Ruta boasts 18 restored and conserved sculptures, with four pending rescue.

During this rehabilitation process, two proposals for the Ruta de la Amistad have been developed. The Artistic Interventions Program proposes the continuous use of the sculptures and their surroundings for public events and installations. In the second proposal, called the Urban Ecology Program, the consolidated sculptures (see map, below) would become spaces where art and ecology converge in two distinct landscape themes. The first section, Clover 1, includes the development of 16 botanical gardens around nine sculptures that will act as storm-water collectors and restore the native flora and fauna of this area, known as the Pedregal San Angel. The Clover 2 section, located in the Xochimilco wetland area, proposes the cultivation and harvest of native plants in the disused ravines and areas surrounding five sculptures.

Today, the corridor faces one of its biggest challenges with the construction of an elevated toll highway above it, which necessitates the relocation of 10 of the 22 sculptures. Three have already been moved: station #1, Signs by Ángela Gurría (Mexico); station #2, The Anchor by Willi Gutmann (Switzerland); station #3, The Three Graces by Miloslav Chlupac (Czechoslovakia). They were taken to a temporary restoration workshop where their interior and exterior surfaces received treatment prior to their permanent relocation. Nonetheless, due to a lack of funds and a contract for the company that is carrying out these works, we have not been able to complete the work, and the sculptures have not been placed in their new site. There is considerable urgency to lift the sculptures that are in the workshop as they are in a horizontal position, which weakens their structure. On the other hand, it is also urgent to carry out the relocation of the other pieces since the construction of the elevated highway is rapidly progressing.

The inclusion of the Ruta de la Amistad on the 2012 World Monuments Watch has brought international awareness to the sculpture corridor, and most of all, it has prompted new ideas for their reinterpretation once the sculptures are safe from current urban developments.