From Geo-politics to Geo-poetics



Presentation / discussion and Selection


Abstract, Paper / artefact, and Poster


Urban design
Decoding the ‘Interior Sea’ to (Re)present the South-American Continent
Alvaro Mercado

Files: abstract, poster, full paper

Fragments from proceedings (‘paper submission’)’:


For more than five decades, the School of Valparaíso in Chile has endeavored to develop a pedagogy and research in architecture based on the experience of building speculative works of architecture, away from traditional methods of research and theoretical production. This commitment for the Work has been materialized in projects such as the Open City and the Travesías of Amereida. However, and almost contradictory, this attitude towards architecture is based on a geo-poetic vision of the South American continent created by this School in the mid-sixties, which is postulated as a fundamental element in the development of architectural projects.

This geo-poetic vision emerged from the Travesía of Amereida in 1965, a wandering trip through the interior lands of South America, seeking to ‘unveil’ them through poetry and art in action, inquiring into the question of ‘being American’ and its correlation with the inhabited (and uninhabited) territory of the continent. From this original experience, the Thesis of the Interior Sea (1971) is formulated, taking the geo-poetic vision to the field of architecture and urbanism, and establishing a position facing the geopolitics of the seventies, particularly with the visions on the development of the South American region towards the Asia Pacific front.

However, for the School, this vision must be linked to the architecture-praxis. For this reason, since 1984 the Travesías are a direct experience of architecture carried out on the territory, whose main objective is to “unveil” the South American continent through the development of different design practices of architecture and design.

This paper aims to present the meanings of the geo-poetic embodiment of the Interior Sea and its transcription in the architectural-praxes developed in the Travesías over the last five decades, decoding how the iteration between descriptive, narrative and performative praxis allows to simultaneously build metaphorical and critical insights about the transformation of territories driven by continental urbanization and its architectural incarnation.

The presentation is based on the analysis of historical archive documents and experiences as professor at the School of Valparaíso.


Geo-poetic; territory; design-practice; urbanization

Ongoing research

Based on this historical analysis and experiences as professor at the School of Valparaíso, this ongoing research aims to trace and decode how the origin and deployment of the Travesías in the Interior Sea has faced the historical and current urbanization of the continent, understanding urbanization, on the one hand, as the means by which the Travesías reach isolated places of the continent, and on the other, as the current process by which new remote territories are integrated into the global, but mainly for the exploitation of natural resources, paradoxically causing the displacement or resistance of places that are virtually unknown to the world.

Mapping and re-tracing of the Inner(s) Sea(s) based on the narratives and Works of more than 250 Travesías throughout South America (1965:1984-2019) aims to open up other ways of representing -digitally- the relationship between geo-poetics and a continent in transformation, overcoming the traditional methods of descriptive geography and geopolitics. Finally, this research expects to contribute in the current discussion within the academia committed to approaching subjects –such as urbanization and territorialization– through design practices beyond the disciplinary boundaries of architecture.