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An Architecture Tour: Santiago, Chile

Besides wine, when I think of Santiago, Chile, I think of architecture, in particular the Estadio Olimpico and the Celinto Catayente Towers. Of course, neither really exists and is just in the minds of the suitors of Mary, but still, there is some architectural beauty to see in the city.

La Moneda

Let?s start with La Moneda a building dating back to 1784, not as old as many places in Europe, but not too shabby for the Americas, considering it was hit with bombs in 1973 during the military coup. Long and with only a couple floors, the shape brings to mind the style of Spanish missions in California. The former mint is an example of neoclassical architecture and has an ornate fa?ade using Doric columns (as far as I can tell) as decoration.

Santiago is a bit unique as far as its architecture goes because it has to survive earthquakes in order to make it to the present day. For example, four versions of the Cathedral of Santiago existed on the same spot before Joaquin Toesca designed the current version in 1780 and made it in the neoclassical style. Today, the Cathedral houses the Museum of Sacred Art as well as the remains of the first Chilean cardinal, Jose Maria Caro.

Another neoclassical building is the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes or the Chilean National Museum of Fine Arts. Designed by Emile Jequier, the inspiration for the design of the museum came from the Petit Palais in France and both are examples of the neoclassical branch Beaux-Arts architectural style which is a style taught at the appropriately named Academie des Beaux-Arts. There are twenty-two ceramic tile medallions among the exterior decorations to celebrate great artists, including Rembrandt.

Jequier also designed the former train station, the current Mapocho Cultural Center. Also in the neoclassical style, the government commissioned the building to celebrate its first 100 years of independence. In 1976, the government declared the building a national monument, but it wasn?t until the government suspended train service that renovations to restore its beauty began in earnest.

Lastly, for the oldest building in the city, there?s the Museo of San Francisco, built and rebuilt in the 1600s and housed within the still functioning monastery and church. The most interesting exhibit seems to be the one locks, hinges and wrought iron grilles, just because you don?t see those kinds of exhibits too often.

So, you may not be able to check out the fine works of Pat Healy, but there is still a lot of great architecture to see in Santiago. Between trips to vineyards and the mountains there are plenty of options to enjoy a bit of neoclassical beauty.


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About Jason McClain Jason is an aspiring novelist, which means there is a lot of time to put off writing and watch baseball or go fly-fishing, hiking and traveling. By "a lot of time", Jason means "procrastination."

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