Homeless Ladies

The morning I left on my architectural pilgrimage to Ritoque I caught a news report about elderly women being forced out of their homes in Santiago. At the 8am hour the news in Chile takes on a Kathie Lee and Hoda quality so I normally don’t pay attention. But it’s hard to ignore the pleas of these women, especially when the reporter leans over the body of a bedridden 88-year-old widow who obviously can’t leave her home so easily. Beyond their plight what caught my eye was their residence: Unidad Vecinal Portales.

Within Chilean architecture B.V.C.H.’s Unidad Vecinal Portales (1954-1966) is a mid-century classic though you wouldn’t know it today, as illustrated in the video. Hence the specter of eviction: according to the reporter the residents, many of whom have lived there since the building opened, are being displaced in order to fix the structure. The interiors show dangerous signs of earthquake damage. Architecture aficionados are probably ecstatic that the building is finally being repaired; I admit I’m excited to see how it will look restored. However the residents are in a difficult position: the monthly $212 USD compensation they’re being offered is hardly enough to rent a place in Santiago.

It’s tricky business living in a historic site. Case in point: Mario Pani’s Multifamiliar Miguel Alemán. Unfortunately I haven’t been able to find any updated information about the residents of Unidad Vecinal Portales. If I remember correctly they had until the end of the month to vacate into an architectural no man’s land.

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