Chueca An>Dante>> A Transformation From Parking Lot to Poetic Vision

When creating art in public places, the people who live in or near the space matter most. However, in a close second, is the place itself. Take the neighborhood of Chueca in Madrid, Spain for example. It undeniably has its own pulse. It’s a hub of art and history, in the very center of a capital city, in the center of an extraordinary country. It is known for being lively, gay-friendly, and full of attractions. Crafting an iconic parking lot design in such an already iconic place could be an insurmountable challenge, but not for Teresa Sapey.

Chueca Dante Parking Lot Design Entrance Teresa Sapey
The entrance to Sapey’s iconic parking lot design piece. The red metal bars extending outward are part of an inverted bow symbolizing AIDS awareness.

In her project “Chueca An>Dante>>”, Sapey transforms the normally dull and gray space of a public parking lot into another world. Commissioning artful parking lot designs doesn’t just add beauty, but can redefine a whole urban experience. In 2005, in the Plaza Pedro Zerolo, Sapey did just this. Granting such attention to what is traditionally considered a “non-place” Sapey reaffirms her statement that:

“Man, in his DNA, has aesthetics.”

The forces of color, shape, and light, albeit subconscious or conscious, are always at work. Chueca An>Dante>> reflects her vision of how non-places can aesthetically influence humans. First, to draw the attention of passersby and solidify its status in the neighborhood, exterior elements are included. The site is made much more visible by the beckoning lights and sculptural elements above ground. Also, one immediately encounters a clear recognition of the neighborhood’s identity in the form of a red metal loop, a commonly used symbol for AIDS awareness and solidarity.

Chueca Dante Parking Lot Design Neon Teresa Sapey
The neon sign reads in Spanish, “The love that obliges the one who is loved to love, binds me to your arms, with pleasure so strong that, as you see, not even death leaves me.

Dante’s fifth chapter of Inferno serves as the central theme to the interior of the parking lot design. Instead of cold walls, warm neon lights illuminate the sultry red color of the walls and pillars. The neon displays poetic passages from the literary masterwork on the subject of love. To complete her mission of humanizing the cold concrete atmosphere there couldn’t be a more human emotion to evoke.

“We have always tried to represent ourselves. In space, with space…”

Video art depictions of human body parts are projected on the walls, while still photos of locals kissing add another multi-media layer. However, her creative parking lot design doesn’t only focus on beauty, but functionality as well. The informational graphics that point drivers towards the exit are large and eye-catching, much more useful than a few small spray-painted block letters.

Chueca Dante Parking Lot Stairs Teresa Sapey
The metal in the staircases reflects light in smooth and attractive gradients, especially when paired with the glow of the red walls.

Chueca is also known as a very walkable neighborhood. The title is a play on words, “andante” is the Spanish adjective “walking”, making one interpretation of the piece’s name, “Walking Dante”. “Andante” is also a musical tempo in Spanish and English that means a walking speed, or slightly slow rhythm. Her installation substitutes colorless monotony in exchange for a thought-provoking and luscious parking lot design, playing around with the tempo of the quotidian.