Saturday, 14 December 2013

Santiago, Chile: raising the bar in urban architecture and design

Owing to the economic recession that has affected so many parts of the world over the last few years and shows no solid signs of abating, the collective gaze has attempted to find social optimism in the financial growth associated with countries such as Brazil, Russia, India and China. However, as I completed a recent business trip to Santiago, it dawned on me that Chile is perhaps the most hopeful of countries in the world, with a buoyant economy that translates into highly accomplished examples of architecture and design throughout its elegant capital.

Gran Torre Santiago by César Pelli

Founded by Spanish conquistador Pedro de Valdivia in 1541, modern Santiago is home to over 6 million people that inhabit pleasant neighbourhoods bordered by parks, vineyards and the Andes. In contrast with a dramatic landscape, the city’s downtown centre holds stunning examples of neoclassical and art deco architecture as well as impressive contemporary buildings such as the Centro Cultural de la Moneda and the Centro Cultural Gabriela Mistral. The former, designed by Cristián Undurraga and inaugurated in 2006, is located under the Palacio La Moneda (the palace designed by Joaquin Toesca, and completed in 1805 in a competent Baroque style, which these days is the seat of the Chilean Presidential office) whereas the latter (known as GAM) was designed by Cristian Fernandez and unveiled in 2010 on the site of the politically-charged Edificio de Diego Portales that burnt down in 2006.

Palacio de la Moneda and entrance to the Centro Cultural de la Moneda

Interior of the Centro Cultural de la Moneda

East of the centre, the neighbourhoods of Vitacura and Las Condes host a large number of high-rise office and apartment buildings, including the Edificio Consorcio (designed by Borja Huidobro and Enrique Browne in the early 1990s and featuring hanging garden walls on its semicircular facade), the glass-covered Titanium La Portada (by architects Abraham Senerman and Andrés Weil) and the recently inaugurated Gran Torre Santiago, designed by architect César Pelli as part of the ambitious Costanera Centre development and currently the tallest building in South America.

Halfway between these areas, beautiful buildings of different epochs emerge around every corner of Santiago, such as the Museum of Fine Arts (designed by Emilio Jécquier and opened in 1910), the Café Literario Parque Bustamonte (conceived by architect Germán Bannen and a popular cultural and social hotspot since its inauguration in 2008), or the award-winning buildings by Alejandro Aravena, Teodoro Fernández and José Cruz Ovalle erected in the lush surroundings of the Pontifical Catholic University. In addition to these spaces, a buoyant and sophisticated nightlife that takes place in numerous cafés, bars and restaurants with stylish interiors makes Santiago a world city that should not be dismissed.






















Edificio Consorcio, by Borja Huidobro and Enrique Browne

Café Literario Parque Bustamonte, by Germán Bannen


Atrium of the NOI Hotel in Vitacura





Titanium La Portada, by Abraham Senerman and Andrés Weil



The green facade of the InterContinental Hotel

Sculpture above the train tracks at Pedro de Valdivia metro station

Exterior of the Centro Cultural Gabriela Mistral (GAM), by Cristian Fernandez

Perforated copper facade of the Centro Cultural Gabriela Mistral (GAM), by Cristian Fernandez

Stained glass atrium ceiling of the Centro Cultural Gabriela Mistral (GAM), by Cristian Fernandez

Interior of the Centro Cultural Gabriela Mistral (GAM), by Cristian Fernandez

Contemporary Chilean design at the Centro Cultural de la Moneda

Contemporary Chilean design at the Centro Cultural de la Moneda

Contemporary Chilean design at the Centro Cultural de la Moneda

Photographs © João Paulo Nunes / The Style Examiner

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