In Santiago

France and Chile collaborate to restore historic landmark

The turn-of-the-century greenhouse in Quinta Normal Park will undergo a complete restoration and take its place amongst Barrio Yungay’s growing number of cultural institutions.

Thursday, November 04, 2010  
The interior of the greenhouse, awaiting restoration. The interior of the greenhouse, awaiting restoration.

Built by Santiago’s wealthiest families, the neighbourhood of Yungay and adjacent Quinta Normal Park are home to some of the city’s most beautiful turn-of-the-century architecture. A joint effort between the Santiago metropolitan government and the government of the île-de-France is set to restore one of the area’s faded architectural gems, the Park’s 120-year-old steel and glass greenhouse, with a projected total cost of over US$530,000 (CP$265 million).

Declared a historic monument by the Santiago municipal government in April, the restoration led by architect Magdalena Barros is expected to begin in November, with US$390,000 (CP$193 million) contributed by the Santiago government and the remaining US$146,000 (CP$72 million) by France. The structure was originally built in France and then transported to Chile where it was erected in its current location, representing ties of friendship between France and Chile.

Quinta Normal was founded in 1838 with a total extent of 25 ha. (62 acres) as an agricultural experiment which continued to expand over the course of the century. At its greatest extent around the turn of the 20th century, under the name of Agricultural Institute of Chile, the park covered over 134 ha. (330 acres). Around this time the 500 sq m greenhouse, a delicate lattice of steel and crystal, was built in the midst of the botanical gardens that had been founded several decades earlier in 1853 by President Manuel Montt. Today, the park covers 40 ha. (99 acres) and the botanical gardens are no longer open.

The houses that line the streets of Barrio Yungay serve as reminders of the area’s privileged past, while newly opened restaurants and bars testify to its fashionable, bohemian present. Restoration projects thus far have focused on the neighborhood’s gardens, tree-lined streets and historic town houses, bringing fresh paint and plaster to the ornate facades of the area’s most beautiful homes.

The greenhouse fell into a state of disrepair over many years. Its crystal windows were switched for synthetic replacements, rust accumulated on its delicate frame and vandalism claimed many of the building’s transparent panels. The restoration project will begin with the steel frame, cleaning and reinforcing the skeleton of the structure, and finish with the restoration of glass rather than synthetic panels.

The restoration will also bring this historic building back into the cultural life of an increasingly vibrant neighborhood. Ms. Barros told La Tercera that she hopes the newly restored greenhouse will take its place amongst local cultural institutions such as the nearby multimedia art space Matucana 100, thereby contributing to an ongoing cultural renaissance in one of Santiago’s most historic and beautiful neighborhoods.

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