A symbol of international friendship and unity, The Route of Friendship was created by artists from every continent to honor cultures from around the world.
In 1968, Mexico hosted the Olympic Games and aimed to show the world more than just the marvel of athletic performance. Taking to heart the Greek essence of the Olympics, a cultural movement was proposed by German-Mexican artist Mathias Goeritz as part of the festivities to integrate the world of athleticism with that of art and intellect. The project came to fruition and produced events related to music, dance, science, sculpture, painting, among others.
Among the most famous and lasting artistic endeavors from that year is a sculptural corridor that celebrates friendship among competitors and countries. Fittingly called “The Route of Friendship” (Ruta de la Amistad, in Spanish), the corridor consists of 19 monumental sculptures created by sculptors from all over the world. Specifically, the project involved artists from Australia, Austria, Belgium, Czechoslovakia, Spain, the United States, France, Hungary, Israel, Italy, Japan, Morocco, Mexico, the Netherlands, Poland, Switzerland, and Uruguay.
(Willi Gutmann, "El Ancla." The Anchor)
The trip along this route will take you through more than 10 miles (17 kilometers) of international art with sculptures that range from 22 feet (7 meters) to over 85 feet (26 meters) tall. To justify such an immense project, Goeritz said in 1967 that:
The environment of the modern man has become increasingly chaotic. [...] The ugliness of many indispensable elements and of publicity in general disfigure urban communities, particularly in the suburbs and among the highways; the latter, in a century of accelerated time and automobiles, has acquired unprecedented significance. As a consequence, there’s an urgent need of artistic design focused in contemporary cities and the planning of public venues. [...] Art, integrated from the beginning of urban planning, is of great importance today. This means that artistic works will distance themselves from their usual environment and establish contact with the masses through total planning.
(Pierre Székely, "El Sol Bípedo." The Bipedal Sun)
The works were selected by an international panel in collaboration with a national one. There were only three requirements for the sculptures: they were to have an abstract design, monumental scale, and utilize concrete as their main building material.
However, after being altogether abandoned for over 25 years, this route was almost forgotten and severely neglected. The sculptures were torn, vandalized, and left in utter disrepair —vulnerable to the rapid urban growth of the areas that surrounded them. This led to a governmental initiative to restore the route by allocating funds for the repair and reconstruction of its pieces. One by one, the colossal sculptures were rebuilt, relying on several programs and the collaboration of many official instances, including the communities that inhabited the nearby neighborhoods.
(Herbert Bayer, "Muro Articulado." Articulated Wall)
The Patronage for the Route of Friendship (Patronato Ruta de la Amistad) was founded in 1994 to coordinate the efforts and rescue the underlying message and value of the original project. Today, the Route of Friendship stands as an international statement of unification that celebrates the world and all people in it. Its message, urgent in today’s political atmosphere, echoes as an inspiration for tolerance and as a symbol of collaboration. And for this reason, it’s certainly worth a visit.
(Grzegorz Kowalski, "Reloj Solar." Solar Clock. Photo By Alupercio, Creative Commons)
(Cover Photo by Imviann, Creative Commons)
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