Retrospective on modern Chilean architecture

Dating back to the 1920s, modern architecture in Chile is a diverse and prolific history worth protecting.

Chile was one of the first countries in Latin America to begin adopting modern architecture styles in an era when Neo-classical architecture was the norm. A school of young architects with mixed educational backgrounds in Chile and Europe brought this new school of architecture to Chile.
“At the end of the 20s, the first modern works were constructed, while in the 30s more and more constructions were fortified,” Humberto Eliash, architect at the Universidad de Chile, told MásDeco. Some of the most noteworthy names of this era include Sergio Larraín García-Moreno, Alfredo Johnson, Roberto Dávila, and Juan Martínez.
“It wasn’t until the 40s that the government began to take a part in these works,” Eliash explained.
Beginning in Santiago, the modernist movement in architecture spread to other cities throughout the country. Particularly in Antofagasta, Talca, and Viña del Mar, modern architecture became part of the government’s official urban planning.
In 2008, the Committee of National Monuments and the Universidad de Talca aimed to highlight the city’s modern architectural value with their project Museo de la Ciudad (Museum of the City).
Their project recognized a group of 118 institutional and privately owned constructions in Talca for their art deco and modernist architectural value. These constructions were built throughout the 20th century and date back as far as 1928 after a strong quake destroyed part of the city’s infrastructure.
“Talca after the earthquake of 1928 was more open and also needed a ‘new style,’” Andrés Maragaño, director of the Universidad de Talca’s Architecture School told MásDeco. “The facades of many of the adobe homes were reconstructed only in part, and as a symbol of modernity, they incorporated brick constructions and elements of art deco and art nouveau.”
While Talca hoped to preserve these structures, nearly 65 percent of them were destroyed in Chile’s 2010 earthquake. In Talca, and other cities throughout the country, preserving these historically important structures will always be a difficult yet worthwhile challenge.