• Fernando Perez Oyarzun Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile



The paper poses the question about the planning modernization processes happened in Latin America, and about the role that disasters, and specifically earthquakes, played within them. In the case of Chile, earthquakes have been present all along its history. During the 20th century, some of them have been significant factors in the development of modernization process: Valparaíso, 1906, Talca 1928, among others. What kind of discussion about urban modernization did those disasters open, and how was modern planning perceived within them? 

The proposed hypothesis suggests that resilience, developed as a cultural feature, after a long exposure to earthquakes and others disasters, not only promotes the reconstruction processes, but also offers the opportunity to discuss urban models and paradigms. Following the way in which Schumpeter and others have put it (creative destruction), reconstruction processes have been occasions to promote already existing urban agendas or introduce new concepts, methods and paradigms.

The Chillán earthquake, happened in Chile in January 1939, is proposed as an study case to examine those processes. The earthquake coincided with a political crises, involving social, economical and cultural dimensions. The reconstruction of Chillán and other cities in the region, opened a big discussion among local planners. This surpassed the technical domain and permeated into the media and the public opinion.

The two main struggling forces were those of Karl Brunner disciples and Le Corbusier partisans. Both considered themselves as modern planning representatives, but conceiving this in very different ways. Karl Brunner (1887-1960) had visited Chile in 1929 and 1932. He delivered the first Latin American planning seminar at Universidad de Chile and did urban plans for the government and Santiago Municipality. He had set an agenda for urban modernization in the country, which had been developed by his disciples in the following years. Le Corbusier (1887-1965) on his side, had visited some Latin American countries (Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay)in 1929, while Brunner was working in Chile. After the Chillán earthquake, a group of architects invited Le Corbusier to visit the country and have a leading role in the reconstruction process. Brunner disciples strongly opposed the idea, detonating a public controversy about the nature of modern planning.

The paper suggests that this local discussion reflected tensions that went far beyond the local realm. They had to do with different conceptions about modernization processes and urban planning renovation. At the same time, this polarization, taking place within the experts’ realm, reflected a wider dispute about Latin America as a possible professional field for European or North American planners.


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How to Cite

Perez Oyarzun, F. (2016). EARTHQUAKE AND RESILIENCE POLARIZATIONS ABOUT MODERN PLANNING IN CHILE. International Planning History Society Proceedings, 17(3), 289–300.