UNCTAD III: Contradictory Architecture (Draft)

Note: Draft for the second section of Chapter 5.

By Patricio De Stefani

This building reflects the spirit of
work, creativity and
effort of the people of Chile,
represented by:
their workers
their technicians
their artists
their professionals
It was built in 275 days and finished
on April 3, 1972 during the popular
government of comrade
President, Salvador Allende G.


1971, Utopia:

Industry, Modernism, and Class Struggle in the Chilean Road to Socialism

The building for the third international session of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD III)[2] was built in Santiago de Chile, between June 1971 and April 1972, during the government of socialist president Salvador Allende.[3] Its history is marked by a series of ‘traumatic’ social and political events, to say the least. In this section I will focus on a ‘political economy’ of the building in relation to particular aspects of the Chilean economic system during the late 1960s and early 1970s. To do so I will use the main hypotheses and concepts developed in the first part of this research, the wider economic, social, and political background of the epoch, and the case and role of CORMU[4] in the design of a new way of conceiving urban space and architecture influenced mainly by the Bauhaus and CIAM ideologies, but also by the social and political visions embedded in Chile’s emerging modern culture.

We will need to compare the general premises which the project intended regarding the relationship between modern architecture and the existing city, with the actual relationship the building established with the city of Santiago. How did UNCTAD III related to the existing city? What was the general and specific mode of this relationship? Answering these questions requires that we distinguish between the building as sensory thing and the building as social object.

As a concrete urban intervention, it was originally meant to complete a larger modernist housing complex: San Borja Urban Renewal. This development was part of the urban policies carried out by CORMU (since 1966) and the housing policies of CORVI[5] –both dependent of the Ministry of Housing and Urbanism (MINVU).[6] The role and vision of these State institutions was largely progressive and focused on solving housing and urban problems of the working class. The building is located at the centre of Santiago on a triangular block. Its main entrance faces south to the city’s main street, ‘Alameda’ (Libertador Bernardo O’Higgins), and to San Borja; to the west is Santa Lucia Hill (the city’s foundational place); to the north Lastarria neighbourhood, Forestal Park, and San Cristobal Hill; and to the east, one of the main squares of the city, Plaza Baquedano. It is an isolated building composed of two main volumes, a slab-shaped horizontal volume containing all main conference halls and other facilities; and a tower comprising secretariat functions (Fig. 1). The horizontal block’s general magnitude could be summed up as follows: 180 m length, 50 m width, and 20 m height; whereas the tower’s is 24 m length, 20 m width, and 80 m height. The main building comprises three smaller buildings (of steel structure and corrugated sheet cladding), and upon them a flat steel spaceframe roof rests on sixteen concrete pillars. The building connects, through its main entrance, Alameda Avenue and Lastarria neighbourhood (Fig. 2).

Fig.1. UNCTAD III building, slab-shaped building and tower, 1972

Fig.2. Urban context (Central Santiago), from San Cristobal Hill facing south, 1973

As an urban object, the building materialises a more general scheme of intervention within the existing city. CORMU saw this as an obsolete and inefficient bourgeois structure which was the direct outcome of the ‘anarchy’ and inequalities of capitalism (Honold and Poblete, quoted by Gámez 2006, 11). The main task of Chilean modernist planners and architects was to impose order on the existing city, an order which was at once necessary, rational, universal, and humane. However, we shall see that Chilean modernism differed in important aspects from more general developments within international modern architecture, and part of this was due to the influence of Latin American economic policies. As an architectural object, UNCTAD III was organised around a variation on the modern idea of the homogenous plan libre. The multiple activities related to the conference were organised into a single, compact, rectangular plan in which activities are ‘freely’ distributed around functional nuclei –including conference halls as such (Fig. 3).

Fig.3. Site plan and first floor plan

As soon as we analyse this conditions and ideas more closely, contradictions emerge. The ideology of CORMU largely reflected contradictory aims, such as the integration through urbanisation of the poor population –as means to prevent social uprisings– while at the same time arguing for a ‘socialist’ and modern transformation of the bourgeois city. Yet, as this discourse came from the ‘modernising’ State’s dominant ideology of ‘productivism’[7], we need a deeper understanding of the economic conditions of those decades.

From the early 1940s to the late 1960s the Chilean socio-economic formation[8] was characterised by a partial import-substituting industrialisation model (ISI)[9], following developmentalist economic theories.[10] These were adopted by various Latin-American governments in order to promote industrialisation as a way to overcome underdevelopment and crisis of their export markets –worsened by the Great Depression (Hettne 2001, 137). Chile’s international economic relations were marked by the way in which underdeveloped countries tried to cope with modernisation without keeping its former dependency on first world nations, which they accused of imperialism and exploitation through unequal exchange.[11] Under this impulse, a number of international institutions were created along the lines of the concepts of ‘development’ and ‘modernisation’[12] –e.g. CEPAL, UNCTAD.[13] In Chile, new State institutions such as CORFO[14] were created to these effects. However, the model was ‘exhausted’ soon due to the impact of World War II and internal issues such as lack of demand in consumer goods.[15] In 1958, the emerging bourgeoisie managed to elect Jorge Alessandri –a wealthiest industrial man– as the new president, who promoted openness to foreign investments as a way of funding the ISI model in new sectors of the economy –e.g. capital goods and consumer durables (Vitale 1998, 207-208). During the 1950s and 1960s there were massive migratory movements of the peasantry to the urban centres. This resulted in a shortage of housing and other services which the State had to fulfil, but at the same time a rise in demand which allowed the ISI model to recover. From 1964 to 1970, President Eduardo Frei Montalva, a Christian democrat who followed the developmentalist lines recommended by CEPAL, relied heavily on loans from the US –which substantially increased the external debt as part of the ‘Alliance for Progress’ plan set-up by Kennedy in 1961[16]– to finance his proposals. Two of his most popular measures were the ‘Chileanisation of copper’[17] and the ‘Agrarian Reform’[18] –both of which were only partially achieved.

As the 1929 financial crash resulted in a decrease of currency incomes –which were formerly used to import manufactured products– CEPAL suggested that Latin American governments should adopt the ISI model. Nonetheless, this process of national industrialisation was limited by its dependence on foreign monopoly capital, which exported the necessary machinery and inputs for the new surrogate industries (Vitale 1998, 11). For this reason the Chilean government under Alessandri and Frei endorsed duty-free to foreign imports. This allowed the industrial bourgeoisie to save from large investment in machinery, increasing the organic composition of capital, while relying on cheap labour power (variable capital) –mostly peasants coming to the urban centres– to substantially increase their profits and expand their industries from consumer goods to consumer and producer durables (Vitale 1998, 6, 207-208). Increasing inflation and social unrest due to poor living and working conditions, pressured the State to promote large investments in urbanisation (services, mass housing and transport) as a strategy to both integrate workers and peasants and provide the necessary infrastructure required by industrialisation (Vitale 1998, 146). Meanwhile the agrarian and commercial bourgeoisie started to shift their investments to the industrial sector, which soon began to be controlled by foreign companies through massive capital investment. Towards the late 1960s the Chilean accumulation model was characterised as being highly concentrated, mono-exporter, heterogeneous, with low savings, growth, and technical progress, and unable to overcome chronic inflation (Cornejo 2011, 174).

The general ideological climate which emerged from and influenced these economic conditions was dominated by two main trends. The first was the direct involvement of the dominant class with foreign capital in the context of the Cold War. This resulted in a fierce defence of private property and control over the means of production, masked as a defence of individual ‘freedom’ and ‘democracy’, usually supplemented by contradictory aims, such as ‘reformism’ and ‘nationalist integration’, represented by the Christian Democratic Party (DC) and the National Party (NP), respectively. The second was the rising peasant and working class movements demanding land and housing, which soon translated into ‘land occupations’. Boosted by the Agrarian Reform, the Cuban Revolution and the French May 68’ experiences, this period was characterised by escalating strikes and a rapid process of unionisation, which was violently repressed by Frei’s government, resulting in several massacres (Vitale 2000, 26). However, it was precisely his administration that unleashed these social movements that demanded the realisation of his promises of a ‘revolution in freedom’ (Vitale 2000, 23). This situation, coupled with internal splits within DC, and the loss of hegemony of the industrial and financial bourgeoisie led in 1970 to the triumph of the Popular Unity coalition (UP)[19] represented by Salvador Allende (Saavedra 2007, 178).

The economic strategy pursued by Allende’s government was summed up by him as follows: ‘By unleashing into the economic system dynamic forces thwarted before, we intend to overcome the traditional growth model that was based almost exclusively on increasing exports and import substitution. Our strategy involves giving priority to popular consumption and to rely on the abilities of the domestic market’ (Allende 1989, 317). Although Allende was openly Marxist and socialist, he made it clear that his government wouldn’t achieve ‘socialism’ but rather open a ‘path’ towards it, according to Chile’s own self-determination and situation. His government was transitional, he stated, but nonetheless ‘popular, national, anti-imperialist, and revolutionary’ (Allende 1983, 50). Thus, the so called ‘Chilean road to socialism’ emerges out of ‘facing the need to initiate a new way of building the socialist society: our revolutionary road, the pluralistic path, anticipated by the classics of Marxism, but never before put into practice’ (Allende 2009, 71).

The contradictions of the Chilean ‘dependent’ form of capitalism –which started to burst under Frei’s government–, were deepened during the UP period. As Allende nationalised copper and all major industries –which were now part of the ‘social property area’[20]– and radicalised the Agrarian Reform, conflicts between these social processes and the legal and institutional apparatus led by and for the bourgeoisie, dramatically increased. Several attempts to prevent Allende to assume power were made by the far-right, including a failed coup attempt backed by the CIA.[21] At the ideological level, the political centre threw media campaigns posing the coming ‘communist tyranny’ against ‘freedom and democracy’.[22] Class struggle –as an objective social process– starts to become part of everyday Chilean reality.

As any State institution during this period, CORMU also took active part in the process of transformation of Chilean society. This was manifested in the radicalisation of its direction and aims. Despite having inherited the ‘reformist’ approach of Frei’s administration, CORMU was called ‘to replace the escalating classist dehumanisation that evidenced the chaotic growth of the city, by a policy of recovery of our landscape, our popular traditions and habits of recreation, guiding them now to the impoverished sectors of the population’ (CORMU, quoted by Gámez 2006, 17). We can see already here an attempt to conciliate a socialist, a modern, a ‘regionalist’, and a welfare approach to the problem of the city, therefore, distancing from the influence of the European and (north) American schemes. All of these new institutions were created during Frei’s government, and they intended to give the State a leading role in the production of urban space as a way to boost the economy as well as integrate the marginalised population into the process of modernisation (Raposo and Valencia 2005, 95). Yet, in real practice, this process was aimed mostly to the middle classes, suggesting that increasing social polarisation brought about by capitalism’s contradictions could be mitigated by repositioning the middle classes into the city’s centre (Raposo and Valencia 2005, 139). San Borja Urban Renewal represented precisely this kind of attempt. Thus, the government expected that ‘from these places of renewal would begin the process of gradual shortening of inherited social distances’ (Raposo, Raposo and Valencia 2005, 247-248).

Once in power, UP was critical of the attempts made by DC. Relegation of popular masses towards the cities’ periphery, lack of social content in housing policies, and dominance of market criteria, were denounced and confronted. Yet, despite its radical claims against the bourgeois city, in its real practice CORMU always acknowledged its dependence on private investments to carry on its programme (Raposo, Valencia and Raposo 2005, 95, 98, 135). The strategic switch into the second circuit of capital –planned by the State– could then be reoriented to correct social fragmentation in the space of the city itself. This was materialised by building popular neighbourhoods in middle and upper class areas (Raposo and Valencia 2005, 109). CORMU’S legal attributions to put these ideas into practice were broad. It could buy, sell, and expropriate immediately a large number of sites in order to build ‘harmonic ensembles’ (Raposo and Valencia 2005, 98) justified by the fact that the city required ‘a speedy instrument regarding expropriations since the social interest is above any individual consideration’ (Schapira, quoted by Gámez 2006, 10).

With this background in mind, we can now address UNCTAD III more clearly. To our initial ‘pragmatic’ distinction between the building as thing and object, we will have to add a new dialectical pair. For we encounter in this building a confluence of many factors of political, architectural, and economic relevance. The question is: which of them are to be considered as inherent to its architecture and which part of the contingency of the historical situation? As we briefly outlined in the previous chapter, this will compel us to distinguish between the building as the result and condition of a concrete social practice, and as an ideological representation –with all its associated meanings and symbolism, which are particularly strong in this case.

After one year and a half of government, the national balance was optimistic due to a successful policy of redistribution and economic reactivation, which in turn increased popular support –even at the international level, the democratic election of the first Marxist president did not go unnoticed, since most of the European left at that time, facing Stalinism, was looking for a democratic road to socialism (Harnecker 1998, 34). This was reflected in the designation of Santiago de Chile, by the UNCTAD commission, to organise the third version of the conference on condition that the required facilities could be provided. Furthermore, UNCTAD was strongly influenced by dependencia Marxist theorists[23] from CEPAL, who argued that the situation of underdeveloped countries was not due to their lack of inclusion into the world market, but by the very way in which they were integrated into it (Hettne 2001, 137). Allende himself was influenced by this view, stating that ‘the task assigned to UNCTAD III is figuring out new economic and trade structures precisely because those established after the war, severely harming developing countries, are falling apart and will disappear’ (Allende 1989, 319). From the beginning he saw the conference as an opportunity to show to the world the benefits of the structural changes he was carrying out.

The most notable thing about the building was the extraordinary effort demanded to the people involved: just ten months to build almost 40.000 m2 –a task that normally took between three and four years in that epoch. The team of five architects in charge (José Covacevic, Juan Echeñique, Hugo Gaggero, Sergio González, and José Medina) belonged to CORMU and shared a strong ideological cohesion and commitment (Raposo and Valencia 2005, 110). The site was chosen due to its central location and –since it was originally meant to be part of San Borja Housing complex– one of the apartment towers was already being built, which was harnessed to save time. A strategy was needed to advance as fast as possible. According to its colleagues, González came up with the original idea for the building: a ‘large tent’ with all the facilities arranged under it (Fig. 4, Wong 2011, 66). In this way such tasks as building the roof and the conference halls could be performed simultaneously. To this initial strategy several ideas were added up: the continuity (‘tunnel’) with San Borja all the way through the building towards Lastarria neighbourhood (Fig. 5); the idea of a ‘plaza-building’; and that it should also function as a ‘station’ with underground and aboveground connections to the city (Fig. 6). Also, Allende proposed that after the conference the building should turn into a cultural centre for popular culture, a ‘building of the workers’.[24]

Fig.4. Early and last stage models, 1971

Fig.5. Constructive and structural concept ‘parallel works’; tunnel from housing to park

Fig.6. Plaza-building; Station-building

However, focusing merely on these ‘architectural ideas’ would be hardly satisfactory for our analysis. We must refer them back to their ideological framework and even further, to the social practice from which they emerged. The already discussed notion of abstract space –the space of accumulation– will have to be considered in relation to the particular ‘modernism’ which this building intended to realise. Thus, an inevitable question looms: how a space brought about by modernity (capitalism) could be used to embody a socialist ‘revolution’? Did UNCTAD III managed to bridge the gap between the critical negation of the existing (bourgeois) city and the positive foreshadowing of a future ‘socialist’ space? These questions, which pertain to the ideological realm, will lead us to confront the contradiction between a negative conception of ideology (fetishism) and a positive one (class consciousness). What about the building as a social practice –as organisation of activities, both for its production and its use? Functional (mental) abstractions will have to be confronted with the (social) abstraction of objects which structures activities, first of workers and then of ‘users’. Was UNCTAD III the last ‘hope’ of the Chilean road to socialism, its last utopia? As we will see, the tension between modern and socialist utopias embodied in this building –between reproduction and transformation, the State and workers– will have an unexpected turn, which will emphasise the (architectural) brutality needed to maintain the social order.

1973, Tragedy:

The Neoliberal Utopia, Terror and the Dismantling of Chilean Architecture

Following the building’s opening and the development of the conference during April and May of 1972, something changed.[25] The government had to confront major economic problems, such as the decline in private investment, hyperinflation, supply shortage, high levels of speculation and flight of capital, and several strikes. Some economists have attempted to explain these issues solely as failures of the State’s ‘irresponsibility’, on its ‘populist’ spending and redistribution through salary increase (Cornejo 2011, 182; Meller 1996, 117-133; Ffrench-Davis 2003, 28-29). But their conclusions rest on ignoring the economic impact of class struggle, the reactionary sabotage of the bourgeoisie, and American interventionism (Cornejo 2011, 181-182). Allende and the working class joined forces to face the real causes of the economic predicament: black propaganda, bank run, black market, hoarding, terrorist attacks on industrial assets, US invisible blockade (veto to international loans and credits), ceasing of spare parts imports, and financing and training of paramilitary fascists groups to create a ‘coup climate’ (Harnecker 1998, 36). To counteract some of these actions without transferring their impacts on workers, the government had to expand the money supply –with subsequent inflationary pressures (Harnecker 1998, 34)– and create DINAC, JAP, and ‘popular markets’[26] to control supply, distribution, and prices. Complementing these measures, workers began to take control of expropriated factories, forming ‘industrial belts’[27], and organising ‘communal commands’ on popular neighbourhoods to voluntarily help government agencies. This spirit of cooperation among workers, and between them and the government, will characterise what begun to be known as ‘popular power’, the spontaneous organisation and collective class consciousness of workers in the struggle for their economic emancipation.

The people involved in the construction of UNCTAD III soon realised that not only it was going to be an enormous challenge, but that in order to achieve their goal, the labour process itself should undergo a radical transformation. The architects and engineers recall the fact that workers were very committed to the task, they wanted to show they ‘were able to build a more just society’ (Troncoso 2011, 60). Furthermore, according to Hellmuth Stuven, one of the engineers, workers participated in the planning meetings proposing improvements to save time. Even more, he added that ‘without inverting the pyramid we couldn’t move forward, we were simply going to fail’ (Stuven 2007). This has to be understood as part of the overall social situation in which it was set up a real ‘battle of production’[28] –to counteract the opposition’s boycott. DC still had influence on some sectors of the working class and paid them to strike against the government on ‘single issue’ demands (Harnecker 1998, 36). To divide and turn workers against themselves –against their interests as class– was a hard blow to the government. Yet, workers who were conscious of this understood that they had to work twice as faster to keep production going. To achieve this they started to organise the labour process by themselves, denouncing their managers’ boycotts to government agencies. UNCTAD clearly reflected this climate, particularly when there was scarcity of spare parts to run some machines, or when the engineers’ trade union went on strike, and workers replaced them (Maulén 2006, 90). From these experiences it follows that the underlying social structure of activities (human acts) which controlled the organisation of work must have been altered in some way. Did this mean that it had an effect on the configuration of architectural objects? Certainly, decisions on how to organise time and space directly influenced the plan and design of the building, but changes in the organisation of workers were parallel –not previous– to the construction process.

Did the spatial and temporal organisation (objects) of UNCTAD’s plan fundamentally challenge the capitalist production of space in Santiago? No. First, the problem we have to face here is that of a mismatch between the architects’ political and moral discourse and the underlying structure of their design. This contradiction is not specific to UNCTAD but runs throughout the history of modern architecture: modernism as aesthetic formalism and modernism as pure materialist functionalism. Tafuri has indentified this internal conflict in Hannes Meyer’s attempt to conflate modern architecture and Marxism (Tafuri and Dal Co 1980, 173). Secondly, we have shown how Lefebvre’s notion of abstract space was the material basis that enabled the emergence of Bauhaus theories and of modernist architecture, and not the other way around (Lefebvre 1991, 304). That is, architects did not ‘invent’ abstract (modern) space; their theories reproduced something that was already there, a real abstraction functioning and organising production and society. It follows that even if CORMU attempted an ‘aestheticisation of politics’ (Raposo, Raposo and Valencia 2005, 168) –to announce social change on the built environment itself–, it failed to foreshadow an architecture that structurally confronted the capitalist production of space. Nevertheless, this must be viewed as part of UP’s ambiguous relation to modernity as a limited but potentially revolutionary force (Pinedo 2000, 139). This was, in a sense, ‘mirrored’ in the relationship between CORMU and modern architecture, in which orthodox rationalism and functionalism gave way to more experimentalist approaches (Raposo, Valencia and Raposo 2005, 144, 158). Despite its ‘severe’ and monumental appearance, UNCTAD III was an example of such Latin American variant of modern architecture. This is shown in two important aspects: the ‘integration’ of the building within the urban fabric and the concept of ‘integrated art’ developed by modern artists who intervened the building during the construction process as part of its function as a future cultural centre (Fig. 7). According to UNCTAD’s artistic advisor Eduardo Martinez Bonatti, modern art should not be confined into a museum, turned into commodity-art –a privilege for the upper classes. An ‘anti-museum art’ should be ‘a museum across the city, all over the environment’; an art ‘incorporated as one more element of reality’, for ‘it is not the property of any particular being, it is property of a collective social milieu’ (Martínez Bonatti 1972, 4). While artists were proclaiming the anti-bourgeois and revolutionary convergence between art and life, architects were certainly more moderated –along the reformist lines of the State–, occasionally raising the flag of ‘revolution’, but finally conforming to the dictates of the (abstract) space of capitalism. The parallel with the European avant-gardes (Lefebvre 1991, 304) wasn’t mere coincidence though, nor was it just a matter of ‘cultural influence’. After working at the Bauhaus and the USSR with Meyer, the Hungarian architect Tibor Weiner, travelled to Chile and taught at the Universidad de Chile with Sergio González as his assistant, who later replaced him (Maulén 2006, 84).

Fig.7. Integrated Art at UNCTAD III (above to below): Felix Maruenda (kitchen chimneys), Ricardo Meza (door handles), Alfredo Manzano (hanging whales), Juan Bernal (skylights).

The dialectical relationship between a ‘constructivist’ functionalism –identified with Marxism and ‘scientific-mechanical’ materialism– and a ‘popular’ modernism –incorporating art, the urban fabric, and popular symbolism– was the dilemma for UNCTAD’s architects. The first case was reflected in the struggle with organisation, time, production, efficiency, and all those factors which are directly ‘determined by life’ (Meyer 1970, 117). The second, in the active incorporation of art, popular references such as the idea of an ‘eaves-building’ reminiscent of colonial porches (Maulén 2006, 86), its economic-driven ‘brutalist’ aesthetics, and its ‘piazzettas’ and terraced gardens on the secondary entrance from Lastarria neighbourhood (Fig. 8; Winograd, quoted by Raposo, Raposo and Valencia 2005, 287-288). However, from the standpoint of abstract space, not only these tendencies are not mutually exclusive, but complementary, as Lefebvre notices in his analysis (Lefebvre 1991, 354), in which the effectiveness of a positivist rationalisation and objectification of architecture relies precisely on its visualisation, aesthetisation, quality, symbolism, use. The building is simultaneously a product of the material forces of society, and of an institutionalised ideology and political discourse. In fact, utopia and ideology are inextricably intertwined in it. On the one hand, the semi-suspended and autonomous appearance of the conference halls signals a ‘leap forward’ into a better future that has yet to come (Fig. 9). On the other, it materialises the very same State ‘reformist’ ideology that it seeks to overcome. Its ‘instrumentality’ does not lie in being a direct tool for the production of a ‘new socialist space’ –like ‘factories run by workers’–, but in giving the ‘appearance’ of it. The gigantic and homogenous spaceframe roof gives the necessary ‘unity’ to the whole, thus a sense of totality becomes embodied, which otherwise will be perceived as three separate buildings. Yet, beyond any possible meanings, we must not forget the ideological nature of these allegoric procedures –i.e. their ‘concealing’ nature, or the fact that interpretations of this kind are often used by architects themselves to ‘cover’ what their buildings actually do, which includes how they are produced.

Fig.8. North side access and tower; west side access through an alleyway

Fig.9. North side façade

All of these contradictions, whether ideological, aesthetic, or practical, coalesce around a central tension between the aforementioned axis of reproduction and transformation (see Chapter 4). What is important to notice here is how the above opposing categories revolve around this spatio-temporal axis with no fixed position: functionalist-materialism, for example, can have a progressive function by aiming at transforming the material basis of society, but it can also be used to shatter differences into a complete objectification of architecture. A difficult problem opens up with this, the problem of architecture as mean –of consumption, production, accumulation, power. Can the instrumental use of architecture change it to the point of turning it against the purpose for which it was conceived? Does this mean that buildings are neutral devices waiting to be ‘signified’ and ‘politicised’ by ‘users’? Formulated in this way, these questions will not get us very far. Let us exemplify this problem by recounting the historical shift that drove away UNCTAD III from its former ‘destiny’.


[1] Stone plate inscription by sculptor Samuel Román, written by architect Sergio González.

[2] The third conference was held in Santiago de Chile, from April 13th to May 21th, 1972. It pursued, among other things, ‘the promotion of economic progress in the developing countries by means of an extensive development of world trade that would be equitable and advantageous to all countries’ (UNCTAD 1973, 1).

[3] Salvador Allende was president of Chile from September 4, 1970 until his overthrown by a coup d’état on September 11, 1973.

[4] CORMU or Urban Improvement Corporation was an organism created in 1966 to plan and execute projects of urban renovation along modernist ideas.

[5] Housing Corporation created in 1952 by President Carlos Ibáñez del Campo.

[6] Ministry of the Chilean State created in 1965 by President Eduardo Frei Montalva for the planning and development of housing and urbanization projects.

[7] We refer to deterministic and mechanical approaches to historical materialism and the identification of the primacy of productive forces with economicism, for example in Kautsky, Plekhanov. See (Harman 1998, 9-11) and (Lefebvre 1991, 72, 322, 410).

[8] I use this term instead of ‘society’ to distinguish an historical from a theoretical approach to political economy. See (Harnecker 1971, 19-24).

[9] This model advocates replacing foreign imports for national products as a way to encourage industrial development in third world countries.

[10] Developmentalism was a loosely defined set of theories which emerged after the Second World War from modernization theory and structuralist economics, and which attempted to theorise economic and political strategies for developing countries to achieve development through their national industries. See (Rist 2008, 109-122).

[11] Dependency theories (developed in Latin American) had several points in common with Marxist theories of imperialism and uneven and combined development (Lenin, Luxemburg, Trotsky). See (Hettne 2001).

[12] For an extended and critical take on these concepts, see (Rist 2008).

[13] The United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (CEPAL or ECLAC in English) was established in 1948 with headquarters in Santiago de Chile; and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) was established in 1964 in Geneva, Switzerland.

[14] Production Development Corporation, founded in 1939 by President Pedro Aguirre Cerda.

[15] Mainly consequence of the high percentage of poor and low income population (Vitale 1998, 207).

[16] According to Vitale, this ‘aid plan’ was aimed at counteracting the ideological impact of the recent Cuban Revolution in Latin American countries. See (Vitale 2000, 13).

[17] This term was used to differentiate it from a complete nationalisation of copper mines.

[18] Land reform designed to expropriate the landed property of latinfundistas (landowners) and redistribute it among the peasantry, putting an end to ‘colonial-feudal’ property relations.

[19] The Popular Unity followed FRAP (Front of Popular Action) a coalition of left-wing parties which existed from 1956 to 1969. Popular Unity was comprised by the Socialist Party, Communist Party, Radical Party, Radical Left Party, MAPU (Popular Unitary Action Movement), and Christian Left Party. The coalition was formed in December 1969, and through internal elections designated Salvador Allende as its presidential candidate for the 1970 elections.

[20] The Social Property Area of the economy was one of the most important measures of the Programme of Popular Unity. It consisted in the socialisation of key industries hitherto controlled by national and transnational monopolies. These industries would be under the democratic control of workers and government representatives. The area was seen as a key for building a planned socialist economy in contrast to State capitalism bureaucracy. See (Allende 2008).

[21] General Roberto Viaux planned the failed abduction and resulting assassination of General René Schneider (who was considered loyal to the constitution) on October 25, 1970, to provoke the mobilisation of the armed forces and so to prevent Allende took office. The operation was financed and promoted by the CIA in coordination with the US National Security Advisor, Henry Kissinger, in what became to be known as operation ‘Track II’ or ‘Project FUBELT’: ‘The option of a military coup was played from day one Allende triumphed’ (Vitale 2000, 45-48). See also (Uribe 1974).

[22] Just one week after Allende won the elections, Frei’s Minister of Finance, Andrés Zaldívar, announced that the economy was being destroyed due to massive bank run as a reaction to the elections results. The major right-wing newspaper, El Mercurio, published a photomontage of Russian tanks entering La Moneda presidential palace, saying that Chile would follow the path of Czechoslovakia, and even that Chilean children would be taken to Russia. See (Vitale 2000, 41, 42).

[23] Dependencia or dependency theory was developed during the 1960s and 1970s as a synthesis of American Marxism (Baran, Frank, Sweezy), Latin American Marxism (Marini, Dos Santos), and Latin American economic structuralism (Prebisch –UNCTAD secretary-general–, Furtado, Pinto, Cardoso, Faletto).See (Hettne 2001; Kay 2001).

[24] Allende manifested the need to retrieve workers for the incredible work done in finishing the building on time, so he proposed to give the building back to the workers. See (Ulibarri 1972).

[25] ‘We lost too much in those last months of the Popular Unity, because we couldn’t sleep waiting for the coup, and if you cannot sleep you cannot dream, and I mean that literally, you cannot dream in the future of a country, in the future of a city’ (Stuven 2007).

[26] DINAC (National Bureau of Supply and Marketing) and JAP (Committees of Supplies and Prices).

[27] Industrial belts or Cordones Industriales were a form of workers organisation, democracy, and popular power under which several factories or companies were grouped along a common street or area of the city. Their initial intention was the democratisation of the workplace, but soon it became a front to combat strikes organised by the company owners to boycott against the government. They were independent from Trade Unions and the State. See (Silva 1998; Gaudichaud 2004).

[28] ‘The future of the Chilean Revolution is, more than ever, in the hands of those who work. Is up to you that we win the great battle of production’ (Allende 2008, 248).

List of References

Allende, Salvador. 2008. “Area social de la economía.” In Salvador Allende: Pensamiento y Acción. Edited by  Frida Modak. Buenos Aires: Lumen/FLACSO-Brasil/CLACSO. 

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Wong, Jorge. 2011. “Edificio UNCTAD III.” In 275 días: Sitio, Tiempo, Contexto y Afecciones Específicas, edited by Paulina Varas and José Llano. Santiago: 275 días .


About patriciodestefani

My main focus is on the role of architecture within capitalist society and the search for a radical alternative practice. https://artificialorder.wordpress.com/
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1 Response to UNCTAD III: Contradictory Architecture (Draft)

  1. Pingback: Hannes Meyer | The Charnel-House

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