Magazine article Americas (English Edition)

Santiago's New Down Under

Magazine article Americas (English Edition)

Santiago's New Down Under

Article excerpt

IN SANTIAGO, CHILE, the very heart of the capital's historic district has been transformed into an all-encompassing center of national, cultural, and historic treasures, but uninformed visitors will search in vain for any outward evidence of the massive undertaking; virtually all of the project is hidden from sight, housed in three subterranean levels of massive exhibition halls, theaters, galleries, and other public facilities.

Anchoring the project is the Centro Cultural Palacio La Moneda (CCPLM)--a new cultural center literally at the doorstep of Chile's presidential palace, the gleaming white, ornate old Spanish mint, completed early in 2006. The next phase of the project calls for several blocks of Avenida O'Higgins, the city's major and most historic thoroughfare, to be routed underground. The result will be a massive public space called Plaza de la Ciudadania. Once the now-bustling traffic flow has been redirected through the new subterranean passage, the plaza will extend a block beyond the present-day avenue to the new open-air mausoleum of Chile's most important national hero, Bernardo O'Higgins.

The initial phase of the overall project, the cultural center, is what coordinator Morgana Rodriguez calls "an integration of culture, art, and education. Among its fundamental objectives," she says, "is the participative access of citizens to the visual and , audiovisual patrimony of the nation."

Designed by architect Cristian Undurraga, the cultural center occupies 77,500 square feet. Broad ramps framed by waterfalls convey visitors from two entrances in front of the Moneda Palace to the three levels of attractions that radiate from the focal point of the facility's common space, the immense central hall on the lowest level. …

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