Theses Master's

Contemporary Reconstruction: Celebrating Destruction in the Basilica of El Salvador

Lira, Olimpia

In a highly seismic country like Chile, reconstruction is a periodic exercise. Every 10 - 25 years there is an earthquake greater than 8.0 at the Richter scale, which leaves enormous human and material loss. Our surviving built heritage also suffers devastating structural and material damage, which oftentimes is left in neglect and abandonment after the event because of lack of funds. The Basilica of El Salvador in Santiago Chile, completed in 1920 and designed by German architect Theodore Burchard, is one of these cases. The architect did not take into account the seismic condition of the country, and the building has been seriously damaged over and over again. The Basilica closed after the 1985 earthquake because of safety reasons and later, in the 2010 earthquake, damage increased leaving it in a sad yet appealing state of ruin. The history of the Basilica is one about social change, religious symbolism, architecture and decorative arts, but it is also a history of destruction and reconstruction. This thesis intends to explore destruction as an aesthetic and historic value worth preserving and an opportunity for interpretation and design, by proposing a restoration project for the Basilica that reuses the damaged structure as an Earthquake Center for the research and education of seismic activity in Chile. The design - based on international recommendations and theories of restoration, by authors such as John Ruskin, Camillo Boito and Cesare Brandi - will respond primarily to the need for structural retrofit, levels and methods of intervention, and the interpretation of the building itself and its fragments as a prototype and laboratory.

Geographic Areas


  • thumnail for LiraOlimpia_GSAPPHP_2015_Thesis.pdf LiraOlimpia_GSAPPHP_2015_Thesis.pdf application/pdf 19.5 MB Download File

More About This Work

Academic Units
Historic Preservation
Thesis Advisors
Prudon, Theodorus H.
M.S., Columbia University
Published Here
July 20, 2015