Magazine article The World and I

Seen through a Window

Magazine article The World and I

Seen through a Window

Article excerpt

VIEWING CHILE'S REGIONAL CHARACTER

Windows are to buildings as eyes are to living creatures: They allow us to assess the nature of the building and those who dwell in it. People use to display things to themselves and o those passing by. They may place a notice or advertisement, or they may define themselves more subtly by the objects they place on the sill or their choice of curtains. In Chile, windows encapsulate regional differences in climate, geography, and culture.

In the extreme north of the country is the hot, brown Atacama Desert, the driest desert in the world. What little vegetation survives does so by tapping underground water and capturing ocean fogs. Here, the houses are built with thick adobe walls and small, paneless windows that keep out the summer heat and winter chill. In the coastal towns, homes feature material imported during the heyday of the nitrate mines. One rarely sees anybody looking out these windows, perhaps because those inside prefer to be away from the glare of the sun.

The center of Chile has a Mediterranean climate and holds most of Chile's cultivated land and industry. Santiago, the capital and home to a third of the country's population, is in this area, and Valparaiso, Chile's principal port, is located on the nearby coast. Window frames here reflect urban life; they're made of brick, concrete, or other industrial materials.

Rainfall increases as one moves south, as does the amount of forested land. On the Patagonian archipelago, rainfall averages nearly 200 inches per year, huge glaciers flow from vast ice fields, and a nearly impenetrable temperate rain forest dominates the landscape. …

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