After the Wildfires: How Will Chile Rebuild Its Informal Communities?

For those unfamiliar with Valparaíso, allow me to inform you: this city is a treasure. The UNESCO World Heritage site and cultural capital of is defined by its winding paths, happily graffitied streets, antiquated funiculars, and – above all – its colorful, tightly-packed hills. And because of its precarious density, the city was brought to its knees by vicious forest fires this past weekend, fires which quickly spread and consumed 2,500 acres, displacing over 12,500 people whose homes were destroyed.

The hills where the fires hit hardest are similar to Brazilian favelas – inhabited by informal residents who have little to no access to infrastructure and who constructed their homes themselves, illegally, and – as the fires have proven – rather perilously.

The response of the Chilean government so far has been to suggest bulldozing and building again in “a more orderly manner.” To do so, the government has intimated that it will expropriate land and relocate citizens to safer sites.

However, residents have already begun resisting this potential outcome. As ArchDaily correspondent Nicolás Valencia reported from Cerro Ramaditas (one of the hillside communities most devastated by the fire), many have refused to leave for fear that their land be taken from them; those that have gone, have left markers “cordoning off what they consider theirs with pieces of wood or metal cans.”

It’s a troubling dilemma: evict victims from the only home they’ve ever known or relegate them to lives at risk of future catastrophe. But could there be another way?

Synthon Laboratory Building / GH+A | Guillermo Hevia

© Nico Saieh

Architects: GH+A | Guillermo Hevia
Location: El Castaño, Quilicura, Metropolitan Region, Chile
Area: 3200.0 sqm
Year: 2012
Photographs: Nico Saieh

Ambient 30 60 – YAP CONSTRUCTO 2014 / UMWELT

© Cristobal Palma / Estudio Palma

Architects: UMWELT
Location: Parque Araucano, Las Condes, Metropolitan Region, Chile
Project Architects: Scheidegger & García Partarrieu
Project Area: 445.0 m2
Project Year: 2014
Photography: Cristobal Palma / Estudio Palma, Courtesy of

Carozzi Production and Research Food Center / GH+A | Guillermo Hevia

© Nico Saieh

Architects: GH+A | Guillermo Hevia
Location: San Bernardo, Metropolitan Region, Chile
Architects In Charge: Tomás Villalón A., Francisco Carrión G., Javier González E.
Project Area: 52000 sqm
Project Year: 2012
Photographs: Nico Saieh

Aguantao House / Fones Arquitectos

© Imanol Zubizarreta

Architects: Fones Arquitectos
Location: Rilan, , Los Lagos Region, Chile
Architect In Charge: Nicolas Fones Claro
Area: 230 sqm
Year: 2011
Photographs: Imanol Zubizarreta

House Nº1 in Curacavi / Felipe Combeau + Pablo Alfaro

Courtesy of Felipe Combeau

Architects: Felipe Combeau , Pablo Alfaro
Location: Curacaví, Santiago Metropolitan Region,
Architect In Charge: Felipe Combeau
Design Team: Felipe Combeau, Pablo Alfaro
Area: 202.0 sqm
Year: 2012
Photographs: Courtesy of Felipe Combeau

Federico Varela High School/ Crisosto Arquitectos Consultores

© Pablo Blanco Barros

Architect: Crisosto Arquitectos Consultores
Location: , Atacama Region,
Consultants: Crisosto Arquitectos Consultores – Andrés Crisosto Smith y Andrés Crisosto Aguilera
Area: 6616.0 m2
Year: 2013
Photography: Pablo Blanco Barros

ARyS House / Peñafiel Arquitectos

© Pablo Casals-Aguirre

Architects: Peñafiel Arquitectos
Location: Aurelio González, Vitacura, Santiago Metropolitan Region,
Architect In Charge: José Domingo Peñafiel
Area: 2660.0 sqm
Year: 2013
Photographs: Pablo Casals-Aguirre

Deloitte Building / CFA-Cristián Fernandez Arquitectos

© Felipe Díaz

Architects: CFA-Cristián Fernandez Arquitectos
Location: Las Condes, Santiago Metropolitan Region,
Architect: Cristián Fernandez Eyzaguirre
Collaborators: Andrés Parker S., Adolfo Pinto A., Tamara Rodriguez P.
Project Area: 51393.0 m2
Project Year: 2012
Photography: Felipe Díaz, Pablo Blanco

Gago House / Pezo von Ellrichshausen

© Cristobal Palma / Estudio Palma

Architects: Pezo von Ellrichshausen
Location: , , Biobío Region, Chile
Architect In Charge: Mauricio Pezo, Sofia von Ellrichshausen
Area: 241.0 sqm
Year: 2013
Photographs: Cristobal Palma / Estudio Palma

Tunquén House / Mas Fernandez Arquitectos

© Nico Saieh

Architect: Mas Fernandez Arquitectos
Location: Tunquen, , Valparaíso Region, Chile
Architect In Charge: Cristóbal Fernández, Francisca Ruiz, Rodrigo O´ryan
Area: 120 sqm
Year: 2013
Photographs: Nico Saieh

House at Rupanco Lake / Squella Arquitectos

© German Squella

Architects:
Location: Rupanco Lake, Puyehue, Los Lagos Region,
Architects In Charge: Jorge Squella, Sebastian Squella, German Squella
Area: 237.0 sqm
Year: 2014
Photographs: German Squella, Magdalena Squella

Chinquihue Stadium / Cristian Fernandez Arquitectos

© Felipe Diaz

Architects: Cristian Fernandez Arquitectos
Location: Estadio Chinquihue, , Los Lagos Region, Chile
Project Area: 3,791 sqm
Project Year: 2013
Photographs: Felipe Diaz

National Stadium Aquatics Center / Iglesis Prat Arquitectos

© Juan Francisco Vargas Malebrán

Architects: Iglesis Prat Arquitectos
Location: Estadio Nacional – Avenida Grecia 2001, 02, Santiago,
Project Architect: Jorge Iglesis
Project Area: 6839.0 m2
Project Year: 2013
Photography: Juan Francisco Vargas Malebrán

MIL House / A+D Proyectos

Courtesy of

Architects: A+D Proyectos
Location: , Santiago Metropolitan Region, Chile
Architects In Charge: Max Ibáñez, Claudio Labarca
Area: 260.0 sqm
Year: 2013
Photographs: Courtesy of A+D Proyectos

Peñalolen Velodrome / Iglesis Prat Arquitectos

© Diego Elgueta

Architects: Iglesis Prat Arquitectos
Location: Parque Peñalolén – Avenida José Arrieta 7659, Peñalolén, Metropolitan Region, Chile
Project Architect: Jorge Iglesis
Project Area: 9851.0 m2
Project Year: 2013
Photography: Diego Elgueta, Juan Francisco Vargas Malebrán

Space FA / Sebastián Yrarrázabal + Veronica Arcos + Andrea Von Chrismar

© Aryeh Kornfeld

Architects: Veronica Arcos, , Sebastián Yrarrazabal
Location: Costanera Norte 3736, Vitacura, Metropolitan Region, Chile
Project Year: 2012
Photographs: Aryeh Kornfeld, Daniel Ortiz

VER House / Bmrg Arquitectos

© Sebastian Thomas

Architects: Bmrg Arquitectos
Location: Chicureo, Colina, Metropolitan Region, Chile
Architect In Charge: Gonzalo Rudolphy, Maria José Bizama
Area: 340 sqm
Year: 2012
Photographs: Sebastian Thomas