In Valparaíso

Food, Drink, Funicular: new project to revive port’s ascensores

Architects plan to rejuvenate the iconic symbols of Valparaíso, building restaurants and other tourist facilities in adjacent structures.

Friday, May 20, 2011  
The new program aims to transform various houses and spaces overlooking the funiculars into restaura The new program aims to transform various houses and spaces overlooking the funiculars into restaurants, bars, cafes or other touristic destinations.

The rickety funiculars that creak up Valparaíso’s steep hills have always been one of the Chilean port’s most emblematic sights. Unfortunately, recent years have seen more and more of these ascensores falling into disrepair. Now a new approach to their rehabilitation has been set in motion, beginning with the ascensor Barón on the eastern end of town.
 
The new program, developed by the Renting Society, a subgroup under the umbrella of the Valparaíso Chamber of Commerce, aims to transform various houses and spaces overlooking the funiculars into restaurants, bars, cafes or other touristic destinations. These can then be incorporated as complements to the city’s heritage walks, which, of course, include the ascencores.
 
Harken Jensen is the architect at the helm of the first project, which will be spread over more than 3000 sq. ft. The project, he said in an interview with La Tercera, “will increase use of the ascensor Barón. We hope to see passengers beginning their trip, for example, enjoying a [pisco] sour.”
 
The plans for this first project will be prepared for approval within the month, La Tercera reports, representing the first of many similar projects planned by other members of the Chamber of Commerce. The house soon to be renovated at the ascensor Barón was donated by one of these. The remaining construction work on the house is expected to cost about US$675,000 (CP$320 million).
 
Because the projects will take place in the historic, UNESCO-protected center of the city, each design has to meet approval from the Director of Municipal Projects and the Council for National Projects. Jensen does not expect any hold up as the design specifically aims at preserving the original structure and appearance of the protected funicular.
 
“The project aims to create a space of two or three levels, but respecting the views from the paseo Barón [an adjacent street]. A light structure of concrete and corrugated metal that integrates the ascensor without altering anything in its structure,” Jensen says.
 
In total, the Renting Society plans to allot more than US$2 million to acquiring and adapting other spaces with similar positions around Valparaíso’s funiculars.

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