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21 August, 2015

DOCTORAL THESIS | “ENABLE THE CLIFF: THE CONVENTILLO AS A PROMOTER OF A NEW ARCHITECTURE IN THE HILLS VALPARAÍSO”

Pablo Manuel Millán Millán

From the middle of the nineteenth century Valparaíso became the port, commercial and administrative center of the South Pacific. Because of its strategic geographical position, the city has become a center of attention for the continuous migrations that, coming from the Chilean rural environment and also from other countries and continents, have sought new job opportunities at the risk of its strong economic development and commercial. This social situation has led to a profound transformation of the city on an urban and architectural level, generating a strong boom in the construction of public and private works.

The adverse topography, characteristic of the geographical enclave of the city, was one of the determining factors that forced its new inhabitants to develop their own residential architecture. This thesis aims to contribute to the research of architecture and heritage as a relationship between past and present, analyzing and characterizing the architectural typology of the poor of the city in this nineteenth century and early twentieth century, the so-called “ architecture of the conventillos “. We will address this research to discover the exceptional nature of a form of occupation of the territory from a precarious and poor architecture.

To temporarily and spatially delimit the work, we will concentrate on the period of greatest growth of this poor housing, which coincides with the main crises of the city of Valparaiso (at the end of the 19th century) and which, in turn, corresponds to the time in which the industrial revolution generates new physical and mental structures.

The social segregation that accompanies the growth of the city materializes in Valpara, pushing the most disadvantaged classes towards the highest areas of the hills, forcing the architecture of workers and poor homes to adapt to this new topography. There is no doubt that the exercise of projecting on the cliff carries the connotations of the idyllic and romantic. The case that concerns us will also take on this bucolic perception that at no time will alleviate the disputed “tugurizzazione” phenomenon. Identifying the exceptional nature of these architectures stands at the exact meaning of exception, that is, the singularity of moving away from the common, of being different in a context of repetition.

The rapidity with which the hills have been occupied by the continuous arrival of immigrants, the material precariousness and the self-construction exercise will be some of the characteristics on which this laboratory architecture is based. The study of its origin and the analysis of typological models that have come down to our days will allow us to demonstrate that the exceptional nature of these architectures, rather than a hypothesis, is a proof.