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ARQ (Santiago)

versión On-line ISSN 0717-6996

ARQ (Santiago)  no.99 Santiago ago. 2018 


The Second Way. The public controversy over the irruption of the School of Architecture, ucv on the project of the 1969 Elevated Highway

Nicolás Verdejo Bravo1 

1Profesor Asistente, Escuela de Arquitectura, Universidad Finis Terrae, Santiago, Chile.


Due to their size and public condition, road infrastructures involve the participation of many actors. Yet not many of them are able to participate in the debate with a counterproposal. That was precisely what the eaucv did in 1969 with its project for the Sea Avenue. However, the regrettable defeat after having taken this debate to the highest levels would have, as this text argues, sealed the fate of this school.

Keywords: Architecture School; Valparaíso; Alberto Cruz; infrastructure; counterproject

Nearly fifty years ago, and after the triumph of the University Reform movement, the statutes of the Universidad Católica de Valparaíso (UCV) turned much of their efforts to engage with the issues of the agitated and polarized Chile of the sixties. In this regard, the UCV manifested itself in favor of the nationalization of copper, made critical remarks regarding the project for a National Unified School promoted by Salvador Allende’s government, as well as suggested major policies for transportation and ports of maritime activity (Allard, 2002). On the other hand, the School of Architecture (Escuela de Arquitectura Universidad Católica de Valparaíso, EAUCV), a main character in the detonation of the reformist movement within the seaport university, would actively enter the scene in 1969 by proposing the Avenida del Mar (Sea Avenue): an alternative to the contested Elevated Highway designed by the Ministry of Public Works (Ministerio de Obras Públicas, MOP), the portion connecting Valparaíso and Viña del Mar within the new and extensive highway between Valparaíso (Chile) and Mendoza (Argentina).

Along the process, the confrontations with government authorities and the rigors of carrying out an important and exhausting intellectual enterprise, would eventually result in a significant transformation of EAUCV’s ways of engaging with the public sphere. Despite being one of the most publicized local urban controversies of the time, the bases of the dispute referred - although in different directions - to the emblematic conflicts over urban plans for Greenwich Village (1955) and the contemporary California State Route 480 (1968) in the United States. Meanwhile, in Chile and amid lukewarm opposition, the scope of the ambitious North-South highway proposal - also known as the ‘Pan-American’ highway - was still being discussed in Santiago.14 In the following lines, I will highlight the performative and communicational strategies employed by the School to stage its counterproposal within the public sphere, as well as a series of sustained frictions with important local political sectors. I intend, in short, to articulate a series of conflict dialectics that, as it usually occurs with such major interventions, have more consequences than those often observed within disciplinary analysis.

The Elevated Highway: precedents of the conflict

During the first half of the sixties, both local and central authorities agreed on the need of modernizing Valparaíso's regional road infrastructure in order to effectively connect the growing travel flow to and from the provinces of Cuyo (Argentina), which demanded an urgent commercial route to the Pacific Ocean. The efforts behind the construction of a new highway were incremented due to the growing traffic issues at the port and, to no lesser extent, by the constant pressure exerted by the Chambers of Commerce from Valparaíso and Mendoza towards their respective central governments. Amid this scenario, in 1967 the mop carried out an exhibition in the Intendancy of Valparaíso, making public for the first time a rendered image -quite distant from the one that was to be built - of the project called Vía Elevada (Elevated Highway) (Figure 1) (Figure 2), a 4.3-kilometer section between the intersection of Avenida Argentina and Estación Barón in Valparaíso, and the point where Caleta Abarca meets Viana street in Viña del Mar: a fundamental portion of the new highway between Valparaíso and Mendoza.

Source: Archivo Biblioteca Nacional de Chile

Figure 1 Elevated Highway at Estación Barón, 1967 version. In: El Mercurio de Valparaíso, May 4, 1967. 

Source: Archivo Biblioteca Nacional de Chile

Figure 2 Intersection with the ex Municipal Slaughterhouse (today INACAP), 1967 version. In: El Mercurio de Valparaíso, May 4, 1967. 

Towards 1968, and with the arrival of a loan approved by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) that would finance approximately 45 % of its total cost, Eduardo Frei Montalva’s government initiated the Elevated Highway’s construction process by issuing a call for tenders. The proposal was energetically promoted by the province’s Mayor, Enrique Vicente, and developed by the mop’s Roads Department. It contemplated the construction of twelve tracks: six of them would be for express transit, estimating to connect Valparaíso and Viña del Mar in only five minutes; four tracks would be for local transit towards the hills and two for seaside traffic. In addition, it projected a third rail for the new metropolitan railroad, the total remodeling of Caleta Portales, the reconstruction of a new Yacht Club with international standards, and the execution of maneuvers to extend the beach areas twenty meters into the sea.

The latter would raise critical concerns within the EAUCV. Along with denouncing the fact that there had never been any certainty about a definitive version of the Elevated Highway project, the School considered that the proposal flagrantly violated the relationship between the city and its shore, and did not give in to its conviction that the Elevated Highway would end up destroying any possibility of accessing the seashore in the aforementioned section (Figure 3) (Figure 4) (Figure 5). “Valparaíso is the city of Chile whose role is to remind us of the sea and that it should not be forgotten (...) if Valparaíso forgets its mission, then the whole country can forget about it as well,” emphasized Alberto Cruz (EAUCV, 1969b:28) as one of the fundamental ideas that supported the counterproposal presented by the EAUCV.

Source: Archivo Biblioteca Nacional de Chile

Figure 3 Illustration comparing a fragment of both proposals in 1969. On the left, the Elevated Highway; on the right, EAUCV’s Sea Avenue. In: El Mercurio de Valparaíso, front cover June 8, 1969. 

Source: Archivo Histórico José Vial Armstrong, EAUCV

Figure 4 Recreo beach before works on the Elevated Highway in 1969. 

Source: Archivo Biblioteca Nacional de Chile

Figure 5 Incidence of the Elevated Highway’s structure on Recreo beach according to EAUCV’s diagnosis. 

The Sea Avenue. First struggles

After analyzing the Elevated Highway, early in 1969 the EAUCV issued a document with fourteen objections to the mop, which after two months were qualified as purely aesthetic. In response, the School as a whole constituted a work team composed of the second and fifth-year studios, with the purpose of developing a counterproposal within the same budgetary restrictions of the official project (Pérez de A. and Pérez O., 2003). Derived from a large number of studies concerning the city’s relationship with the sea,15 the UCV conceived its ‘Sea Avenue’ as a first urban element that directly related Valparaíso and Viña del Mar with the Pacific Ocean (EAUCV, 1971). The proposal included the use of a new beach shore (Figure 6) (Figure 7) and the remodeling of the hillsides, subordinating car traffic to urban flow and not to the highway’s speed. The project’s introduction was accompanied by Alberto Cruz’s call to Chilean students and architects, urging them to intervene as public actors and to spread his ideas to the country and the world.

Source: PÉREZ DE A., PÉREZ (2003)

Figure 6 Fotomontaje Avenida del Mar, sector balneario Recreo. 

Source: PÉREZ DE A., PÉREZ (2003)

Figure 7 Photomontage of Sea Avenue’s coastal pedestrian walkway. 

The Sea Avenue’s advertising campaign started on April 3, 1969, right on the terraces of Recreo beach (Figure 8). In a public exhibition attended by Raúl Allard, in his capacity as Rector of the ucv and Councilor for the Christian Democratic Party (Partido Demócrata Cristiano, PDC) the government’s party; Víctor Vicencio, also a pdc Councilor; Graciela Lacoste, pdc Deputy; as well as professors, students and several invited guests,16 the School openly called to reject the mop’s proposal and not to allow the execution of partial solutions. On the occasion spoke Allard himself; José Vial, Director of EAUCV; Arturo Baeza, professor of the School and Academic Senator at UCV; and Alberto Cruz, founding professor of the School and by then Director of the Art Institute at UCV. When referring to the Elevated Highway, the latter warned of a possible loss of flow in the access to the beaches, which would affect a hundred thousand people, mainly from Valparaíso.17

Source: Archivo Histórico José Vial Armstrong, EAUCV

Figure 8 Public exhibition on the terraces of the former Recreo beach. Photomontage by the author based on existing photographs. 

The first supporters of EAUCV’s campaign emerged from within the academic world. With the permission of UCV’s Rector, the National Union of Architecture Students (Unión Nacional de Estudiantes de Arquitectura, UNEA) also joined. In a statement sent on May 17 to the participating Schools of Architecture, the student organization urged all parties involved to present their views on the new highway, since “in it, the fate of architecture and urbanism in Chile is at stake” (EAUCV, 1969c:6). By the end of its declaration, the UNEA called for a strike that became effective in the students’ cafeteria at UCV on May 24 that same year, where a student assembly was also carried out giving account of the unsuccessful invitations to the mop to establish a roundtable for dialogue. After the assembly, the students agreed to hold a massive and peaceful demonstration along the streets of Valparaíso (Figure 9).

Source: Archivo Histórico José Vial Armstrong, EAUCV

Figura 9 Students’ march against the Elevated Highway at Pedro Montt Avenue, Valparaíso. 

The strategy of adhesion to the proposal also incorporated the statements of diverse and well-known Latin American architects, which were published in paid inserts in both La Unión and El Mercurio de Valparaíso (EMV) newspapers on August 9 of that same year. As a result of Alberto Cruz’s efforts and travels to Rio de Janeiro and Buenos Aires, the Sea Avenue was endorsed by Brazilian architects Óscar Niemeyer, Lucio Costa and Sergio Bernardes; Argentinian architects Jorge Ferrari Hardoy, Clorindo Testa, Francisco Bullrich, Alicia Cazzaniga, Alberto Prebisch, César Janello, Eduardo Bustillo, Rafael Iglesia and Amancio Williams. On the other hand, the Chilean architects that adhered to the statement, among which we must mention Germán and Liliana Bannen, Juan Borchers, Mario Pérez de Arce, Fernando Castillo, together with Jaime Bellalta and Miguel Eyquem-on behalf of the Urban Improvement Corporation (Corporación de Mejoramiento Urbano, CORMU)-among several others, spoke moderately by calling for a multidisciplinary committee to decide whatever was most convenient for the region.

The School of Architecture, politics and the media

In the development of a dissemination strategy for the Sea Avenue, EAUCV turned mainly to the press, specifically to EMV newspaper. Unlike any other, EMV would print the dispute in its cover and among its top news, becoming the main weapon for the offensive and counteroffensive of both the School and the Sea Avenue’s adherents. The School’s relationship with the newspaper was already good after its full coverage of the 1967 University Reform’s events.18 From then on, the decisions and announcements of the School’s campaign would not stop seeking the attention of various political actors and, as was expected, President Frei Montalva would soon appear on stage.

By the beginning of June, and after having heard of the Elevated Highway proposal’s presentation at the MOP’s Public Works Delegation office in Valparaíso, the President was present at the Portales Room, in the heart of the city ​​and where the Sea Avenue’s exhibition by the eaucv was being held (Figure 10). Always accompanied by Raúl Troncoso, the government’s Secretary General; Juan Andueza, Mayor of Viña del Mar; and Mayor Enrique Vicente, the president was received by Raúl Allard and the architects Alberto Cruz, Fabio Cruz and Arturo Baeza. After presenting the project, the latter asked the President to stop the Elevated Highway’s construction until a national multidisciplinary committee had evaluated both proposals and issued a resolution. The president, who remained quiet during much of the presentation, made a single comment regarding his concerns about the EAUCV’s proposal investment budgets. 19

Source: Archivo Biblioteca Nacional de Chile

Figure 10 President Frei Montalva leaving the EAUCV’s exhibition on the Sea Avenue, in Portales Hall, Valparaíso. In El Mercurio de Valparaíso, June 8, 1969. 

The pressure exerted by EAUCV and its adherents began to worry some of the government’s offices, which even threatened with paralyzing the works if public detractions continued. In any case, and while Arturo Baeza managed to bring the Seaside Avenue exhibition to Santiago, the crossfire among government sectors, its sympathizers and the opposition to both proposals became ever more incipient (Figure 11). While the National Party (Partido Nacional, PN), belonging to the Chilean right wing, expressed its severe disapproval of the government's proposal and asked to seriously consider the Seaside Avenue, the Communist Party (Partido Comunista, PC) requested to summon the mop before the President of the Chamber of Deputies (Lower Chamber) to evaluate the background on both proposals. For its part, the PDC joined the President and mop departments unrestrictedly, accusing “cheap politics and a lack of patriotism”20 by those who had turned against the Elevated Highway’s execution (Figure 12).

Source: Archivo Histórico José Vial Armstrong, EAUCV

Figure 11 Coverage of the debate on both proposals within political parties. In: El Clarín, August 14, 1969. 

Source: Archivo Biblioteca Nacional de Chile

Figure 12 The Christian Democratic Party’s counter-offensive before the increasingly frequent adhesions to EAUCV’s proposal. In: El Mercurio de Valparaíso, July 22, 1969. 

In this regard, and distancing himself from the versions and sayings that associated the EAUCV with partisan commitments to right wing sectors, Arturo Baeza stated in El Clarín newspaper on July 29, 1969:

(...) They have accused us first of being in service of the Christian Democracy, when we collaborated in assessing the damage caused by the earthquake that affected the province; later, of being Marxist anarchists when the university revolution in the country began and we occupied the seat, and now of being ‘momios’ (conservative right-wing) because we believe that the government’s project is not the most appropriate for the province’s urban development.21

In mid-August, and on the eve of a new visit by the President of the Republic to the region, some of the School’s professors, accompanied by about two hundred students, led a peaceful march under the slogan “The University must be heard” to the Provincial Palace (Figure 13), where they met with the surrogate Mayor to demand the authorities to, among other things, request the formation of the aforementioned national commission for the assessment of both proposals (EAUCV, 1969a).

Source: Archivo Biblioteca Nacional de Chile

Figure 13 Students’ protest in front of the former Provincial Palace. In: El Mercurio de Valparaíso, August 13, 1969. 

Unexpectedly, on August 14, the President visited the works on the Curva de Los Mayos - at the foothill of eaucv’s headquarters - upon which several professors who noticed his presence went down to meet him. In the makeshift meeting, Frei Montalva had a cordial conversation with Alberto Cruz, Fabio Cruz, Justo Uribe and a group of students (Figure 14). When invited to share lunch at the school headquarters, and as a sign of the friendly tone of the meeting, the President excused himself from being able to participate, while smiling and looking at Alberto Cruz, noting that the “food does not seem very good, since there are such skinny teachers.”22 Urged by the professors to intercede in the dispute, Frei Montalva insisted on his concerns about the costs of the proposal, being emphatic in pointing out that he was not the owner of the money, neither of the country, nor of the works. At the end of the meeting, he said he was not upset by the EAUCV’s attitude, but rather the opposite, that he approved of the commitment and concern that the academic community had shown for their city and the country.

Source: Archivo Biblioteca Nacional de Chile

Figura 14 The improvised meeting between the President, teachers and students of EAUCV at Curva de los Mayos, by EAUCV’s headquarters. Facing the President, Fabio Cruz; behind him, Alberto Cruz. In: El Mercurio de Valparaíso, August 15, 1969. 

Meanwhile in Santiago, Arturo Baeza had managed to introduce the debate within the Upper Chamber (Senate). The operation was supported by a strong request for a special session from senators belonging to different political quarters, among which were Jorge Montes and Volodia Teitelboim from the pc; Salvador Allende and Rafael Tarud, from the Socialist Party (Partido Socialist, PS); Tomás Chadwick, from the Popular Socialist Union (Unión Socialista Popular, USP); Luis Bossay and Raúl Morales, from the Radical Party (Partido Radical, PR); Alberto Jerez, of the PDC; and Víctor García, Pedro Ibáñez and Fernando Ochagavía, from the PN. Finally, on August 13, 1969, the Senate addressed the situation of the Valparaíso-Viña del Mar section of the Valparaíso-Mendoza road, in a passionate session that lasted for over two hours, presided by pc Senator Víctor Contreras, in the absence of the Chamber’s Vice President, PDC Senator Alejandro Noemi.

Most of the speeches agreed on the need to form a technical commission to evaluate both proposals, which in the end would never be fully constituted. Even so, interventions like those of Senator Pedro Ibáñez (PN) vehemently questioned the budgetary diagnosis made by the administration to stop the EAUCV’s proposal.23 However, Senators Luis Corvalán (PC) and Narciso Irureta (PDC) extensively communicated their strong concerns about the urgency of the debate on the highway, at the expense of housing emergencies and basic infrastructure issues in the south of the country, recently affected by an aggressive storm.24

Simultaneously, government agencies had already stated that the debate was adverse for the fulfillment of their executive agenda, which was also patent in the doubts already circulating among some pdc militants themselves regarding the Elevated Highway. Thus, the eaucv and its Seaside Avenue seemed unable to persuade the Intendancy of Valparaíso, the municipalities involved, and the mop in their efforts to materialize one of the emblematic projects of the ongoing administration.

Failed projects

Aligned by the Mayor, the various government offices together with several other Public Works departments, insisted on strongly questioning EAUCV’s budgetary criteria, and agreed to issue a statement through a paid insert in Valparaíso’s newspaper La Unión as a way to unilaterally end the controversy. With suspicious tone, the endorsers also targeted the School and their eventual complicity with emv newspaper:

It is curious that the School of Architecture has resorted to a full page inside El Mercurio to try to prove that the prices of M.O.P. are higher, under the circumstances that for the two most important items concrete and steel (reinforced concrete), they should have turned to their own estimated costs presented in their Exhibition: in the General Specifications Chart, where it reads: Reinforced Concrete for Containment Walls E° (Escudos) 660 per m3 while the mop gets lower prices ​​that range between E° 420 and E° 600 per m3 according to the dosage of steel, whose detail is in the folder that is in their hands.25

Less than a month later, amid the ongoing works on the Elevated Highway, Rector Allard managed to organize a meeting between professors José Vial, Arturo Baeza and Andrés MacDonald with the Minister of Public Works, Sergio Ossa, in what would become the community’s last effort to incorporate some of the features of their Seaside Avenue to the project. Although the meeting was held in good terms, the eaucv described it as an absolute disappointment. José Vial pointed out that the Minister had no real intention of working side by side, only reaffirming that the Elevated Highway could ultimately be improved, but under no circumstances permuted by another project.26 Having exhausted every opportunity, the eaucv accepted with resignation the government’s decision to continue with the works on the Elevated Highway, and thus avoid extending any confrontation within its own political side or with the opposition parties.

Although the unfortunate outcome of the entry for the Navy School design competition (1956-57) registered the early skepticism of the School regarding the usual professional promotion channels (Purcell, 2017), what happened with the Seaside Avenue would encompass a major rejection of the political apparatus and its ability to decide what is best for the city. On the other hand, the Elevated Highway designed by the mop would encounter its own difficulties during the construction process, when part of its budget was indefinitely paralyzed at the beginning of 1970 (Leiva, 2012), due to innumerable unforeseen works - for instance, a geological fault detected at the Curva de Los Mayos - that raised its costs, and the institutional vicissitudes that were beginning to emerge within the country. Today, it is still possible to identify a series of unfinished structures and other deteriorated concrete masses without any use around the current seaside highway.

By the 1970’s, and through a radical alteration of course in its academic project, the EAUCV turned to the full conviction that the only possibility to effectively exercise that ‘freedom of knowledge’ once demanded in the manifesto that gave rise to the University Reform at the UCV, would be outside of any normative or institutional margins. Thus, the School would focus its efforts on consolidating the Open City (Ciudad Abierta, CA) at Ritoque, a place for the architectural experimentation located forty kilometers north from Viña del Mar. Although conceived towards the end of 1968 (AAVV, 1971), the ca would house from 1970 onwards, the most innovative statements and architectural formulations of EAUCV. In the land’s opening act, the experience of the Seaside Avenue circulated vividly in the words of the poet and founder of the School, Godofredo Iommi, who personified in the figure of planning an overwhelming antagonist that, in his view “by misinterpretation and consequent influence of engineering (...) we believe is a way of losing true basis” (1971:15). From that moment, opposition to the ways of making the city would be carried out, with conventual secrecy, on the outskirts of the acute social and political frictions of a country in the process of an irreparable rupture.


AA.VV. Apertura de los terrenos. Viña del Mar: Ediciones de la Ciudad Abierta, 1971. Online en: Online en: (último acceso 21 de febrero de 2018). [ Links ]

ALLARD, Raúl. 35 años después. Visión retrospectiva de la Reforma 1967-1973 en la Universidad Católica de Valparaíso. Valparaíso: Ediciones Universitarias de Valparaíso, 2002. [ Links ]

EAUCV. Correspondencia Proyecto Avenida del Mar 1969, Vol. I. EAUCV: Valparaíso, 1969a. Online en: Online en: (último acceso 21 de febrero de 2018). [ Links ]

EAUCV. Declaraciones Proyecto Avenida del Mar, Vol. I y II. EAUCV: Valparaíso , 1969b y 1969c. Online en: (último acceso 21 de febrero de 2018). [ Links ]

EAUCV. La Avenida del Mar de la Escuela de Arquitectura de la Universidad Católica de Valparaíso. Valparaíso: EAUCV, 1971. [ Links ]

IOMMI, Godofredo. Manifiesto del 15 de junio 1967. Viña del Mar: EAUCV, 1971. Online en Online en (último acceso 21 de febrero de 2018). [ Links ]

LEIVA, Gustavo. “Aproximación al conflicto Vía Elevada - Avenida del Mar 1969 en una mirada desde el cruce de escalas”. Tesis para optar al grado de Magíster en Arquitectura y Diseño mención Ciudad y Territorio. Valparaíso: EAUCV, 2012. [ Links ]

PÉREZ DE A., Rodrigo; PÉREZ, Fernando. Escuela de Valparaíso. Ciudad Abierta. Madrid: Tanais Ediciones, 2003. [ Links ]

PURCELL, Juan. Entrevistado por Nicolás Verdejo. Viña del Mar, marzo de 2017. [ Links ]

* Nicolás Verdejo Bravo Architect, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Valparaíso, Chile, 2013. Master of Architecture, with honors, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, 2017, after being awarded of the Conicyt Scholarship for National Master in 2015. Was awarded the Academic Excellence Prize in 2017, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile. Has co-edited the book Santiago Babylon, by the NGO AriztíaLAB, as part of the homonymous exhibition that was a runner-up for the professional category prize at the XX Bienal de Arquitectura y Urbanismo de Chile. Among his recent publications is his co-authorship in the book Neoliberalism and Urban Development in Latin America (London, 2017). Has also collaborated in the research Fondecyt No. 1150308: “La capital antes de su modernización. La mirada urbana de la expedición naval astronómica de James Melville Gilliss” at the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile. Is currently assistant professor at the School of Architecture, Universidad Finis Terrae.

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