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Valparaiso, Chile: An Infrastructural-Commercial Architecture for the City

Part 1 Project 2012
Brooke Helgerson
Katlyn Flannery
University of Minnesota USA

In its heyday, Valparaiso, Chile was the most significant port in the nation, the country’s connection to trade and the world beyond. This status was significantly diminished in 1914, when the construction of the Panama Canal eliminated the city as a necessary stop on the voyage around Cape Horn. For nearly a century afterwards the city stood still, encapsulating a unique cultural blend of European style and Chilean heritage.

When a portion of Valparaiso was named a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2003, the city began a rebirth due to the increased of a tourist economy. Today, some parts of the city thrive on its popular historic legacy, but other parts remain greatly disconnected and dilapidated, as the decrepit infrastructure system fails to meet the topographic challenges posed by the region. Though the demands of increased tourism and troubled infrastructure are currently causing numerous problems and threats to the city’s vibrant but fragile character, this situation also presents opportunities for structuring innovative and responsive urban-scale design solutions.

This project proposes a way to work between opposing forces in the city. Instead of accepting a current mall development that would consume valuable waterfront better suited for public use, we looked to the city to suggest an alternative structure. We propose a network of commercial sites that expand upon the city’s current acensore (inclined elevator) system. By maintaining the basic principle behind these infrastructural pieces, but altering the language that they are created with, the mall is able to have a symbiotic relationship with city infrastructure. The public elevators within each acensore mall ‘node’ allow residents and tourists to easily traverse the city’s extreme topography, bridging the current city-wide divide between top and bottom. Simultaneously, the commercial space within is surrounded on top and bottom by public space, thus benefitting from a location that is constantly traversed and utilized by tourists and locals alike. In addition, all nodes are designed to act as beacons throughout the city, using their large façades to connect with each other visually, while their infrastructural elements connect the city physically.

Brooke Helgerson
Katlyn Flannery


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