Thursday, February 26, 2009

Dewiring Punta Arenas

Chile has only a handful of distinctive cities, most notably the heartland port of Valparaíso (a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its vernacular architecture), the Atacama desert port of Iquique (with its characteristic wooden Victorians), and the Patagonian port of Punta Arenas, the gateway to Torres del Paine (for air passengers) and the fjords of Tierra del Fuego (by sea). Even those cities often have plenty of eyesores including plastic signage and a proliferation of electric and telephone cables that clutter many streets.

That's why it was such a pleasure to read that Punta Arenas mayor Vladimiro Mimica has denounced visual pollution that limits the appreciation of 19th-century wool-boom monuments such as the Sociedad Menéndez-Behety (pictured above). It may be too expensive to underground all the wiring in the city’s historic core, around Plaza Muñoz Gamero, but when the phone and power companies rewire they usually don’t bother to remove old cables that are no longer in use. Just doing that would improve the visibility of details from the city’s architectural heritage.

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