The Dysfunction of the Oblique

photographs and text by Cristóbal Palma

The caracoles comerciales, which is what these shopping centres were generically called (caracol literally translates as snail), are a very Chilean architectural phenomenon. Between 1974 and 1983, a total of 46 of these structures were built, 26 of them in Santiago and the rest spread around 17 other cities in the country. Most likely based on the designs for the Guggenheim in New York, these buildings try to connect a series of ascending levels with pedestrians on the street via a rising circular ramp, but instead of showing art on the perimeter walls, what you find are small commercial units.