Chilean Skyscraper Overshadows The City

Gran Torre skyscraper

The skyline of Chile’s capital city, Santiago, has a new addition with the Gran Torre skyscraper casting a two-kilometre shadow across the historic city.

The 70-storey residential building stands more than 300 metres tall, making it the tallest building in South America. The five-ton steel structure cost an estimated one billion dollars to build and tenants are expected to move into the building next March.

The Gran Torre stands among existing Spanish colonial-era buildings, echoing Chile’s cultural history with a modern design helping to bring the city into the 21st century.

The skyscraper is part of the Costanera Centre Complex and will be neighboured by a six-floor shopping mall and other towers, including two high-end hotels and an office building. Upon completion, planners estimate that over 240,000 people will use the site each day.

Located in an area prone to powerful earthquakes, the Gran Torre is structurally designed to withstand them. When it was just a shell, the building impressed by withstanding Chile’s devastating 8.8 magnitude quake in in February, 2010 which left 520 people dead and caused millions of dollars worth of damage.

The building is designed by Chilean architects Alemparte, Barreda & Associates together with Pelli, Clarke, Pelli Architects, who were responsible for the Petrona Towers in Kuala Lampur.

Gran Torre skyscraper

Salfa Engineering and Construction general manager Fernando Zuñiga said the “systems employed as the height of the building were a formidable challenge. It’s not a common undertaking in Chile: rather it has been ‘a first time’, and we are very proud.”

“This is the largest investment we have in Chile, over a billion dollars, and it has been long time in the drawing board,” said Horst Paulmann of Cencosud, the holding company responsible for the investment.

Despite the excitement from many corners, not everyone is positive about the landmark. Santiago’s city planners and some residents have raised concerns about the traffic it will cause in a city that is already struggling to deal with congestion.

“We’re talking about five per cent of the city circulating within a few square kilometers,” criticized architect and urban planner Julio Hurtado. “The long-term consequences of this chaos will be a topic for experts to study.”

In contrast, the building has reminded developers of the economic opportunities for commercial construction, particularly structures that are earthquake resistant.

The tower stands the heart of Santiago’s Financial District and construction was put on hold during the Global Financial Crisis in 2009. When construction re-commenced it presented hope for Chile’s economic recovery.

By Angela Fedele
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