Days of Oris exhibition - Cristóbal Palma



We are pleased to invite you to the opening of the exhibition by renowned Chilean architectural photographer Cristóbal Palma called The Dysfunction of the Oblique, which will take place on Friday, 18 October 2019, at the Oris House of Architecture (Kralja Držislava 3) at 6 p.m. The exhibition is part of the program of this year's Days of Oris 19, which will take place on 19 and 20 October at the Vatroslav Lisinski Concert Hall.
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 design 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.
This architectural experiment might be one of the most interesting recent phenomena in Chilean architecture that has nonetheless been ignored by the Academy. This lack of interest might be explained by the obvious sense of failure that the experiment has come to acquire over the years. The "snail" typology never managed to recover from the impact of the arrival of shopping malls in the city around the early eighties, and the way the city itself started to develop based on more widespread car use. The "caracoles" were designed as a pedestrian experience, connecting its interior directly to the street level and its flow of people.
But perhaps the main reason it is hard to pay greater attention to these buildings is their apparent banality. The period that saw this series being developed corresponds to the first phase of the Pinochet dictatorship, one of the most tragic and bloodiest periods in Chile’s history. So, if the mall symbolises the triumph of the neoliberal city propelled by Pinochet’s economic reforms, the "caracoles" seem to represent the final link in an interrupted city that never managed to be reconnected again.
- Cristóbal Palma

For more about Cristóbal Palma's work visit here.