Center hosts conference on architecture and urban policies of Pinochet dictatorship

August 29, 2018

In early August, the Santiago Center co-sponsored a symposium focusing on the urban and architectural policies implemented in Chile’s capital city between the years 1977 and 1990 by the Pinochet dictatorship, including among others, the addition of thousands of hectares for urban development in the periphery of the city. The event, which took place at Universidad Católica’s School of Architecture, was also sponsored by the Santiago Research Cell, which was created in 2013 by a group of alumni from the Columbia Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation (GSAPP) to engage in collaboration, networking, and research initiatives in the areas of architecture, use of public spaces, urban planning, post-disaster reconstruction, and the future of cities. It was curated by the architectural historian and Columbia alumnus Daniel Talesnik (UC’06; PhD Columbia’16).

The program focused on Santiago in the period when national policies for urban development adopted in 1977, and in 1979 in particular, ignited a series of structural changes in the city. It included four panels. In the first one, “Public and Consumption Spaces”, Liliana de Simone discussed architectural projects designed for consumption (including the irruption of the shopping malls in Santiago in the 1980s), while Daniel Opazo talked about alternative public spaces that people created during the dictatorship like “soup kitchens”, where slum dwellers organized themselves around collective cooking. The second panel was about “Disciplinary Discourse”, where Fernando Carvajal talked about a 1977 self-commissioned masterplan for West Santiago by an architects collective called CEDLA, and Fernando Portal (CCCP Columbia’ 12)  covered the history of the first five Chilean Architecture Biennales starting in 1977.

In the third panel on “Architecture”, Francisco Díaz (CCCP Columbia’ 13) discussed architecture and postmodernity during the dictatorship, and Daniel Talesnik made a case for a series of high-rises in downtown Santiago built between 1979 and the end of the 1980s as emblematic of Chile’s neoliberal turn. Finally, in the fourth panel on “Housing Policies”, Emanuel Giannotti and Javier Rojas presented the reformulation of housing policies between 1975-1985, while  Alejandra Celedón talked about the growth of Santiago in the 1980s as an example of Non Plan, an urban theory coming from England in the late 1960s that criticized top-down imposition of urban form and design aesthetics. This last paper branches from Celedon’s research for the Chilean Pavilion in the current edition of the Venice Architecture Biennale.

Each panel had a moderator and also included comments by Genaro Cuadros, Horacio Torrent, Alejandro Crispiani and Gonzalo Cáceres, respectively. A total of  sixteen faculty members of Universidad Católica, Universidad de Chile, Universidad Diego Portales, Universidad Andrés Bello, and Universidad de Las Américas participated in this event. A future publication based on the presentations will help to fill some voids in the literature on Santiago’s urban development and other related topics between 1977-1990.