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Chile Travelogue #1

View of the Andes photo by João Guarantani

photo by João Guarantani

View of the Andes
GAM photo by João Guarantani

photo by João Guarantani

View of central Santiago from Cerro Santa Lucía photo by João Guarantani

photo by João Guarantani

View of central Santiago from Cerro Santa Lucía
3D printing at gt2P studio  photo by João Guarantani

photo by João Guarantani

3D printing at gt2P studio
gt2P studio visit  photo by João Guarantani

photo by João Guarantani

gt2P studio visit
Sarita Colonia photo by João Guarantani

photo by João Guarantani

Sarita Colonia

1 April 2015
by João Guarantani

After a bumpy flight from Argentina across the Andes, I touch down on a scorching Santiago looking forward to another few days of exploration with Arts colleagues on the ground. I‘m immediately taken by the city on the way to the centre, with the slow build-up of the urban mass as the density increases and the arid, other-worldly landscape around the airport disappears.

Following a quick walk-through of the impressive GAM cultural complex - designed by Cristián Fernández Arquitectos and Lateral Arquitectura & Diseño and the highlight of a turning point in the recent upgrade of Santiago's cultural infrastructure -, I am whisked to my first meeting. I am led by Alejandra Szczepaniak and Tamara Poblete, who lead on our Arts work in Chile and are hosting me for the week. And what a welcome it is: our first meeting venue is Castillo Hidalgo, the magnificent palace atop Cerro Santa Lucía, an iconic wooded hill with commanding views across the city. We’re there to meet the director of Fundacion Curaumilla, Andrés Honorato. I sadly don’t get a chance to see their incredible ceramics residency space, Centro Cultural Curaumilla, on a beautiful spot just outside Valparaiso, but we discuss the possibility of hosting teams of British and Chilean designers at the space through a residency programme.

We then head to Galeria Patricia Ready for the opening of a solo exhibition by Patrick Steeger. I’m struck by the both the work, a sober yet sensitive collection of large scale wooden sculptures sparsely displayed, and the architecture of the space, designed by some of the greatest names in Chile today: Izquierdo Lehmann and Elton + Léniz. Much more than a commercial art gallery, Patricia Ready seems more akin to a cultural centre as it clearly provides a focal point for the community in which it sits. The opening also provides a great insight into the cultural life of the city as I keep bumping into people on my ‘to meet’ list, including Sebastian Rozas and Guillermo Parada from Great Things to People, aka gt2P.

Sebastian takes me to their studio for a visit: and adptaded 1950s house taken over by Sebastian and the rest of the gt2P crew. They are preparing work for Salone del Mobile in Milan, and we make plans to meet again then. Discipline or material don’t seem to be boundaries for these guys as they experiment with techniques and processes as varied as ceramics, carpentry and 3D printing. Each project seems to be a response to a self-imposed provocation: how to disrupt the seemingly perfect mechanised, robotic process of 3D printing? And how to make a mechanical process such as CNC feel organic? And I must say a lot of the results are, at the very least, surprising, but also at times moving, as in their Losing my America range which creates hybrid objects resulting from a collaborative process between designers and craftsmen from all over Chile. 

My first [and truly eventful!] day in Santiago comes to a close at Sarita Colonia, a great little restaurant with a Catholic twist (and some great design work also by gt2P). The sense of humour – and drama – of the place speaks volumes of the character of the city and I’m thrilled to be finishing my day here. I’m joined by Nano Pulgar and Claudia Betancourt from Walka to discuss their jewellery design work as well as the independent school they run in Santiago. Nano and Claudia are clearly passionate about their own work, but perhaps more importantly, are also determined to create opportunity for collaboration and learning for other designers around them, which I find terribly inspiring.