Near Talca

Post-earthquake restoration starts soon on Chilean heritage gem

Historic Villa Huilquilemu is an important art and culture center in Central Chile. The reconstruction of its damaged roof is a key step on the road to the country’s recovery.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011  
Villa Huilquilemu is a respected venue for temporary art and handicraft exhibitions. (Photo: Sinfóma Villa Huilquilemu is a respected venue for temporary art and handicraft exhibitions. (Photo: Sinfómano/Flickr)

Restoration works will soon begin on a grand old home near Talca in central Chile that was damaged in the February 2010 earthquake.


Built in 1850, the Villa Huilquilemu stands out for its heritage design that is characterized by thick adobe walls and long corridors. Over the years the home has become a respected venue for art and handicraft exhibitions, also boasting an impressive permanent collection of religious art.


But following the earthquake, Villa Huilquilemu was forced to close its doors and suspend the regular lectures, folklore festivals and exhibitions that it had been hosting for decades.


The worst damage occurred in the Museum of Religious Art, housed in the home's former living room, where large sections of the roof collapsed.


In January the Regional Council of Maule provided a US$373,000 (CP$174 million) grant for the design phase of the restoration project and it is now preparing the tender process for businesses interested in the construction stage.


Two months later the restoration project attracted a US$34,300 regional fund to carry out conservation work on the roofing.


The home's caretaker and an academic at the Universidad Católica del Maule, Horacio Hernández said work on the reconstruction project would be able to commence following an expert review which is currently underway.


“We estimate that the final cost of the project could reach as much as US$2,140,000 (CP$1 billion) or even more,” he told La Tercera.


In the meantime experts from the Universidad Católica del Maule have covered damaged sections of the roof with plastic and salvaged fallen tiles. In the rest of the home damage was limited to fallen wall and ceiling plaster and the foundations and structure remain intact.


“The university plans to restore the home's original design, which represents the typical architecture of central Chile,”  Hernández told La Tercera.


“We want to do it in a way that keeps the memory alive, promoting the traditions, and artistic and cultural activities [of the region].”