The coastal city of La Serena in northern Chile is already home to the country’s best preserved colonial center and some of the most popular beaches north of Viña del Mar. Now this city of 200,000 at the mouth of the Elqui Valley is home to a newly declared National Monument: the iconic La Serena lighthouse.
Built in 1951 during the redevelopment of La Serena’s waterfront, located on a flat stretch of coast below the elevated town center, the lighthouse throws light 20 nautical miles into the Pacific. The declaration of the building as a national monument marks the beginning of an extended renovation and restoration project that will transform one of La Serena’s most recognizable landmarks into a major tourist draw.
The restoration project began in 2009 with a 150 day study of the building’s current condition, the basis for future restoration efforts. In the course of that study, engineers found significant structural and superficial damage due basically the passage of time, and the battering of the wind and sea.
The restoration itself, which will return the building to its historical condition, is expected to take just over nine months and will be followed by two more stages, totaling nine months, which will involve the development of the surrounding coast to include an artisan’s center, a public pool and a food court.
Within the lighthouse itself, the first floor will be renovated to include a cafeteria, exposition space, and an information desk, modeled on similar efforts that have transformed spaces like the Palacio La Moneda in Santiago into top tourist attractions.
The restoration project, which will be funded by the National Fund for Regional Development, is expected to reach completion in the second half of 2011.