Learning to Let Things Happen as a Team

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Story by Peter Jensen. Photography by Laurie Dietter

How working on a Pacific Rim Park can change your life

Entre Corazon y Mar, the fourth Pacific Rim Park, perches on a coastal bluff between roiling surf booming on a rocky shore far below, and the whoosh of traffic on the main coastal toll road between Tijuana and Ensenada, Baja California. During Gateway Conversations 2017 this month, conference participants will visit the park on a day-long tour that also includes a Hubbell-designed school in Tijuana, and a site-sculpture on the property of Rancho La Puerta, the renowned fitness resort and spa in Tecate—not to mention lunch in Rosarito Beach and dinner at Rancho La Puerta’s organic farm.

Built in 2004 by volunteers from Mexico, U.S., China, Chile, El Salvador, and Russia, Entre Corazon, according to James Hubbell, is in “...an area that’s developing a personality that’s different from anywhere in the world. And we don’t yet know what it is. I’m hoping that the parks we’re doing here help us find what that identity is.”

Thirteen years later in March, 2017, a group of volunteers visited the park to freshen it up in advance of the Gateway Conversations tour. Among the participants that day were three who had worked on the original build when they were architecture students in their early 20s. Speaking with them reaffirms the purpose of each Pacific Rim Park: in addition to creating a celebratory public space that unites art and nature, each park changes the lives of those who work on the them. Let’s listen...

Julia Cerrud, social-impact artist, architect, and activist, Tijuana—”This was the first time I worked on a community-based project, and this has become a theme now throughout my career. Jim talked to the architecture school in Tijuana where I was studying, and I found the idea interesting, even though some initially thought we were going to be cheap labor! I said, ‘Give it a chance!’ and soon people from all over the world were coming to help. Working on Entre Corazon taught me that I must collaborate. I left for-profit architecture and now only do projects with social impact.”

Javier Torres, architect/artist, Tijuana—I worked on Entre Corazon and in Taiwan. I was in my early years of architecture school and had never worked with concrete and rebar. You go into a project like this with an open mind culturally, but you come back a hundred times more open-minded! This mix of cultural identities, of ideas, all comes together in such a short period of time—three weeks in the case of Taiwan. In Taiwan, especially, it was exhausting. We arrived right after a destructive typhoon, but we left behind something we had built.”

Cristobal Gonzalez, architectural designer, San Diego—I worked on the park in Yentai, and of course here in Tijuana, and it really changed my life: after all, I met my wife—the artist Evgeniya Golik—who was another volunteer! The parks create families, and I remain friends with other students from Russia, Tijuana, Guadalajara, the Hubbell family...my life changed! Working on the parks is not stressful, but very, very hard. You wake early, go to bed very late—so tired you can only work, eat, and fall asleep. You may not have many construction skills at the start, but working with James I learned that things can be so simple. It’s really more about how you feel, how you are ‘in touch’ with not only what you are building but the people around you. Instead of thinking always of what you know, you let things pass through you rather than force them.”

A short film of Entre Corazon y Mar’s construction, by Brennan Hubbell, can be viewed on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ukiSwn8QL-I. Since the park’s original construction, an exit/offramp has been built between it and an oceanfront cliff, but the park’s overall concept remains. To see it on your own, exit “La Joya” offCalle Quota between Tijuana and Rosarito Beach.