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The Route of Friendship

The monumental urban sculpture project called La Ruta de la Amistad (The Route of Friendship) was part of the Cultural Olympics plan executed by the Organizing Committee of the XIX Olympic Games in 1968. The project arises as part as the International Sculptors Encounter, one of the events of the Cultural Olympiad curated and coordinated by Mathias Goeritz where sculptors from all regions were invited to exchange views and experiences on their artistic practices as well as to collaborate in a paradigmatic monumental urban sculpture project. The following conditions were to be respected by the artists in order to have a successful proposal: (1) the sculptures had to have a monumental scale, (2) they should take into account the context of its location and (3) they could only use concrete as a building material.

The idea of the project was to generate a path of 18 sculptures along the south side of the Periférico highway, with each work possessing certain aesthetic qualities that would highlight kinetics, materiality and scale, though all would be built in reinforced concrete. In addition, the color, lighting and landscaping were also important starting points. Two months before beginning the Olympic activities, the artists arrived in Mexico City with the purpose of supervising the construction of each of the sculptures, with heights that ran from 5.7 to 18 meters, placed along a route of 17 kilometers in distance, with 1.5 kilometers between each piece, all located to the right of those approaching the Olympic Villa. Some had the added value of incorporating an area where cars could stop to observe the sculptures, contributing to the idea of a public exhibition.

In addition to the Route, Goeritz decided to place three more statues at the stadiums to hosting the Olympics events. The Sport Palace hosts Goeritz’s own La Osa Mayor (Ursa Major), the Azteca Stadium has the Sol Rojo (Red Sun) by Alexander Calder while the Olympic University Stadium features Hombre Corriendo (Running Man) by Germán Cueto.

Photography played a crucial role in the consolidation of not only the Friendship Route but of the Games that had heretofore never had such a robust media strategy behind it. These photographs played a crucial role in the refurbishment of the Route as, after 47 years, the project came in dire need of maintenance. Mexico City’s built environment sprawled around the sculptures while the original intention of the project was overshadowed by infrastructure works like the Periférico elevated highway. To save the Route, the Mexico ‘68 Heritage Foundation (Patronato Ruta de la Amistad A.C.) took it upon itself to rescue the project one sculpture at a time. Through fundraising and partnerships with stakeholders that occupy real estate along the Route, the Foundation remains active in the maintenance of the art installations.

Nowadays the sculptures are not located in their original spaces nor do they follow Goeritz’s original vision. The installations were relocated to a new site closer to the Olympic Villas near the heart of the ‘68 Olympic centre. Ruta de la Amistad is still remembered as a service to society that aimed to embellish Mexico City’s avenues, to generate new urban spaces and to take art outside of the confines of the gallery.

Project name Route of Friendship
Period 1968
Contributor Pedro Ramírez Vazquez, Ángela Gurría, Willy Guttman, Miloslav Chlupac, Kioshi Takahashi, Pierre Szekely, Gonzalo Fonseca, Constantino Nivola, Jacques Moeschal, Todd Williams, Grzegorz Kowalski, Josep Maria Subirachs, Clement Meadmore, Herbert Bayer, Joop J. Beljon, Itzhak Danziger, Olivier Seguin, Moahamed Melehi, Helen Escobedo, Jorge Dubon, Alexander Calder, Germán Cueto and Mathias Goeritz
Location Periferico Sur Avenue