Corrugated City

Wednesday 24 October 2007

Arquitecto Esteban Orlando Harrington, Valparaiso

I've been trying to gather information on Arquitecto Esteban Orlando Harrington for the last few weeks. It has proved almost impossible. The reason i've wanted to do a post on Harrington is, simply, because he was one of Valparaiso's most prolific architects and his work can be seen all over the city.

I have managed to find a basic story of him on line and i also found a number of buildings that bear his name. There are many other houses and larger buildings in Valparaiso that bear striking resemblances to Harrington's work but that do not bear his signature. I've left these out as i can't be 100% sure that he was the author...i might go back and photograph them and post them as possibles in the future.

So, onto the history part.

Harrington was born in Valparaiso in 1873 to an American father- William Harrington- and a Chilean mother- Protasia Arellando. He was particularly prolific between 1908 and 1910 (after the 1906 earthquake destroyed much of the city), building houses for the rich and large buildings as well. His main areas of work appear to be in Playa Ancha and Cerro Concepcion. Apparently, he designed many of the houses on Avenida Gran Bretaña up in Playa Ancha but i couldn't find his signature on any of them...

He did live in Playa Ancha in a pasaje that was renamed Pasaje Harrington after his tragic and slightly comical death up the wheels of a trole in 1936. He was 63.

And that's all i've come up after weeks of searching. Apparently i'm not the only one looking for information-i found questions posted on various forums from a number of architects asking for info-none received an answer. One of the questions posted was from an architecture student from Valparaiso called...Daniel Harrington. Even his family can't find anything on him...

So you'll just have to make do with some photos to supplement your undoubted thirst for knowledge of an obscure American-Chilean architect.

The yellow house is the Harrington B&B, currently undergoing a major's been a long job so i hope the new owners get it finished in time for summer...there are 3 identical houses in a row. I couldn't get a good shot of the third one.

Heading downtown and on the corner of Errazurriz and Pasaje Ross is this monster building. I really like the security bars

On Plaza Sotomayor is the Hotel Reina Victoria. This pink blancmange of a building is actually for sale at an absurd price. It is used by ladies of disrepute and their "friends".

And finally...moving on to Pasaje Harrington up in Playa Ancha. I took photos of all the houses there but one. Of course, the one i failed to photo was the house Harrington actually lived in.

And that, i'm afraid, is your lot. I'll keep looking out for new buildings of his and i'll post them periodically. I have a suspicion i'll find a lot more downtown heading out towards Avenida Argentina...we'll see...


Anonymous said...

Hey Matt!

Good luck trying to find info. I can't believe that there is nothing out there. These houses are amazing and look slightly familiar from my previous stays up in Playa Ancha (particularly when catching the less direct bus down to the Plan via Gran Bretana)...So did he design the Hotel Reina Isabela and that building on Errazuriz also? If so, then I can't believe that there is no historical information on this guy because these are both very prominent and well known buildings in Valpo!


Matt said...

yeah, it's a surprise that there's so little info. perhaps if i checked out the public library or the university architecture library i could find out more but i'm not convinced...the fact i found a relative asking questions online suggests it would be a fruitless search.

The architectural record keeping in Valparaiso is a disaster. Original plans for old properties don't exist and the local council is a huge, incompetent mess.

In Buenos Aires, every property has detailed plans and they're kept in a central agency. Anyone can ask for any plan of any property. The Argentine government has a number of websites dedicated to historical buildings, famous architects and the urban landscape that are all pretty awesome. Robert's BA blog (it's in the link list on the right hand side of this blog) is a brilliant example of the type of blog you can do if you have the tools at your disposal.

There's nothing similar for Valpo, nor Santiago. I think it's partly because many Chileans simply don't care about their heritage. Abajo! Abajo! Tear down anything old! is the national rallying call. I guess it's also partly because of the fact that earthquakes periodically raze the country so the thought is, what's the point in keeping records?

Anonymous said...

Hey Matt:
There is a book, you surely know already called: "Las Casas de Playa Ancha" by Myriam Waisberg, a late teacher of School of Architecture of the Valparaíso University, published first during the '80s. There are some works about Harrington all right, but maybe the historical part would be a bit harder to get. I would suggest the Universities' libraries or The Santiago Severin Library.
I personally think that what your doing is veru commendable, I thought of doing it myself when I was living there, but I got lazy or scared or both. There are a lot of questions about our past (being a Chilean, that is), splendid or otherwise, and register all the produce of that thought, which is what the buildings are, is the first step. Well done, and keep the good work. Muchas gracias.

Santiago FLORES
Architect UCV, ARIAI

Matt said...

Hi Santiago...thanks for you comments...i actually tend to stay away from bookshops in chile as i don't even want to think about the obscene book prices such, i didn't know about the playa ancha book..thanks for the heads up, i'll try to find it next time i'm out and about...

the libraries were what i was thinking...there might be more info there than online. problem is i'm really busy at the moment (both a good and bad thing-good for my wallet, bad for my sanity!) but as i haven't even entered the severin library yet it'd be a good excuse to while away an afternoon.

Anonymous said...

...oh, no! I just realised I wrote Hotel Reina Isabela instead of Reina Victoria...Must do a refresher course on my Kings and Queens of England! Truth be known, save for a few expensive private schools, that stuffs not taught here in Australia any more...

Its good to see that, despite the poor economic state of affairs, Argentina's bureaucracy seems to be miles ahead of that of Chile's - albeit where urban planning and architectural record keeping is concerned. It even sounds like a more sophisticated system to what we have here!

If its one thing that gets up my goat about Chile is the 'abajo! abajo!' attitude that you mention and the general lack of concern and pride for the country's cultural heritage. As can be attested in many a Chilean cultural treasure, the attitude is unless a European or American comes around and tells us that we have something really special then it probably aint of any value. It comes back to our own cultural insecurities which is why I find the argentino phyche so refreshing - no matter how bad their situation may be they are still unashamedly brash, proud and sure of themselves both individually and as a nation.

Earthquakes or not, you still must keep records especially now that we have the benefit of so much technology at our fingertips!

Santiago, gracias for passing on information about the book "Las Casas de Playa Ancha'. Is it easy to find in bookstores in Chile? Hopefully with the power of the Aussie Dollar I will be able to get myself a copy when I am over there in January despite, as Matt describes it, the absurd price of books over there - they aint cheap here either!!!


Matt said...

Well, yes...Argentina kicks Chile's arse on the cultural side of things and even on the urban planning front (and it's not great over there)-i think that's always been the case. But, trust me, after having lived and worked in Argentina for 3 years, Chile kicks Argentina's arse in a number of ways that makes life easier and generally more pleasant here than over there. I really appreciate what Chile has to offer on an everyday living level and also on a business level.

I've heard the comment a lot that Chile has no cultural identity and that Argentina does. I have to say that it's something i really disagree with. I found Argentines to have no real identity at all-they all seem to think of themselves as European and constantly bitch and moan about how terrible Argentina is. Of course, as soon as a foreigner dares to criticise the country, Argentines suddenly jump on the defensive and try to re-paint their country as some kind of utopia but i think this is a knee-jerk reaction and something that is taught in schools...if it weren't for football and the Falklands, Argentina would have nothing to hold it together so there's a very strong nationalism but i wouldn't confuse it with an actual identity.

Argentines are certainly very sure of themselves individually but as a nation i don't see it at all. Chile, after so long as an isolated island (to all intents and purposes) does have an identity to some extent. She's just afraid to show it...but that's changing...slowly.

One has to remember as well that South America is a new continent and all the countries here are under 200 years old. That's not a very long time to forge a real identity. I think most countries in the region are still trying to figure out just who the hell they are...and to be honest, due to globalisation i think it might be too late for them...

Anonymous said...

Without sounding defensive, I, personally, wouldn't go as far as saying that Argentinean culture kicks arse over Chilean culture - I think that both have made powerful contributions to the development and exposure of Latin American culture in general. For a relatively small country both in size and population, Chile has been able to provide just as many world renouned musicians, artists, poets, writers and filmmakers as Argentina.

The problem with Chile however is that at a domestic level, we are able to recognise (either happily or begrudgingly) our own cultural forma de ser but when this is projected, warts and all, to the rest of the world we tend to break out into a nervous sweat fearing ridicule...This is possibly one reason why so many artists, writers and musicians find it hard to get support and encouragement in Chile - chilenos are only willing to back a sure thing and will not gamble on anything not already tried and tested! Culture cannot develop under those conditions so the obvious thing to do is to leave. The absurdity of it all is that if an artist or musician who leaves then makes it big in Europe or the US, he or she is then greeted with accolades on his return to Chile!

The heritage of Latin America as independent nation states goes back no more than 200 years but, culturally, it stems back a further 200 to 300 years and in the case of our indigenous population a couple of millenia. I think that Latin American culture is very strong and will stand the test of time. Yet like many places around the world we need to get over petty nationalistic rivalries and forge a much stronger regional identity to ward off the cultural standardisation imposed by globalisation.

Four areas where Chile has and / or will kick arse in Latin American urban planning are: (before you crack into fits of laughter at no. 1 please read on!!!)

. TranSantiago - The idea behind providing Santiago with an integrated and extensive public transport system is actually very good. This is despite it being handled poorly by the Government and, even worse, to the deplorable tactics of the right wing parties whose sole aim is to see this project destroyed to gain some political mileage.

. The Santiago Metro (and the newly upgraded Valparaiso Metro which I hope to use when I visit). Fast, clean, modern, efficient and frequent. Wish I could say the same for the Melbourne's railway network (lift your game Connex and learn from the third world!).

. The vision (or was it a mere fluke?) to develop hillside parks in Santiago. Today they provide some relief from the high level of smog and pressures from high density living down below (well, not if you live down in Puente Alto or San Berndardo, I guess...)

. The development of an INTERESTING and PLANNED city like La Serena (normally planned cities are boring - from what I hear Brasilia and Canberra are cases in point - I have been to neither)... Plan Serena was the master plan devised for La Serena in the the 1940s or 50s during the government of Gonzalez Videla (who was a bit of a fascist from what I read - but a good planner....hmmm...I'm seeing a correlation...). It is a bit faux colonial in parts but seems to draw in the tourists for all the right reasons...can't say the same for poor old Canberra!


Matt said...

i didn't mean to suggest that argentine culture is better than chilean culture, more that argentina and particularly buenos aires, offer far more cultural activities than chile-a far better and more developed performing arts scene, a current crop of films that have been tipped, in various reviews, to be as important as the french new wave, a 'summer in the park' schedule that features top musicians, orchestras and more for free, free museum nights, packed bookshops and more...on this side of things, chile is waaay behind and it's one of the big things i miss about living in BA. Not that i really took advantage of all that BA offered on the cultural side of things, more that it was nice to have the option. Of course i now regret not doing more but it's a bit too late now...

The transanfiasco is a good idea in principal but it was woefully underplanned and implemented. 2 months of 'training' and in the middle of summer when there's no one in the city to learn? Absurd. This is a system that should have been phased in over 5 years with constant publicity explaining the changes. Too late now, the government hanged itself with a noose ricky lake left behind.

The metro in santiago is a fantastically run system...except in rush hour when people tend to die of suffocation and heart attacks thanks to the rubbish transanfiasco. It's a shame as i always used to use both the buses and the metro when i was in santiago. now i drive everywhere.

Yeah, the parks in Santiago are pretty cool but i'm not sure they get you away from the smog...i think they actually get you closer to it!

And La Serena...a brilliantly conceived idea and one that should have been used as a blueprint for other hideously designed provincial city centres in Chile. It's a pity they haven't used the blueprint for the rest of the city's growth though. I really liked la serena in general though.

Anonymous said...

....I have not been to BA (but I am going there for a few days during my January trip to Chile)...from what I read, yes Argentina's (and in particular BA's) organised cultural activities are much more well developed than those in Chile...I'm actually looking foward to visiting BA. I have been to central and north-western Argentina before but not to the gran capital.

Anonymous said...

If ye were talking about Mr. Harrington Arquitecto, why on earth this discussion ended up in something else? For F... sake, keep the bloody thing focused, will ye! Argentina is another country and we have loads of things to learn from them and them from us, so is everybody else! Now back to Sr. Harrington. I think that the photographic survey shown on this blog is a superb kick-start for a more formal work. There are a good few other Porteño Architects that would merit attention, but you have started somewhere and that is a foundation. Lets not get bogged down in small print an see the big picture, wherever and when ever we start, someone will follow with bettere things!

Santiago FLORES
ica5899, ARIAI

Anonymous said...

Otra cosa: con esas fotografías, te acorsejaría visitar, y tratar de incluírlas en la categoría de "Arquitectos". Es una buena causa Matt, no hay que dejarla ahí no más.

Santiago FLORES

Matt said...

thanks Santiago for the link, i'll take a look at it tomorrow when i'm a bit less tired. Also, if you have names of any other architects from Valpo let me know. I chose harrington because i live 30 seconds from the Harrington B&B and i'd seen his signature on other buildings as well...there are actually very few buildings in Valpo that bear the signature of their architect so i haven't really thought about who built all the non-Harringtons.

Anonymous said...

Mil disculpas, Santiago! I guess we (I?) digressed because there wasn't much else to talk about with respect to Senor Harrington pending further research into the topic.

Anonymous said...

en Santiago he encontrado otro Harrington, al lado del Palacio Causiño, en la calle Dieciocho 418.
en el que incluso dejo la firma, la primera dueña fue la señora Maria Ines Lyon de Causiño, el edificio nunca fue ocupado por esa familia, despues fue arreglado y luego vendido, actualmente esta vacio, y es propiedad de Varela construcciones, esta en muy mal estado de concervacion, sobre todo al interior , pero es un edificio Patrimonial, y creo que por eso aun no pueden destruirlo.

Matt said...

Muchas gracias por tu comentario! Que bueno saber que Harrington tambien trabajo en otra ciudad...y no me sorprende lo que dices del estado de conservacion del inmueble. Lo que pasa en muchos casos de inmuebles patrimonial es que el dueno simplemente deja que la propiedad se detoria sola y que se caiga y luego se puede contruir lo que quiera. Es una gran pena pero si el gobierno no da fondos a privados para recuparar edificios patrimoniales, seguira pasando.

David Moreno da Costa said...


Mi nombre es David Moreno da Costa, y soy descendiente directo de Manuel da Costa, quién construyó el Castillo del Barrio Recreo, y primer dueño. Hoy en día, quiero rescatar los símbolos de ese castillo, que pertenecieron a mi familia, y tengo un dibujo original de ese castillo (Conocido como Castillo de Borba). Queda en la intersección de las calles San José Poniente con avda. Agua Santa. En la ciudad de Viña del Mar. Por favor, si uds. tienen información de si la empresa de arquitectura sigue vigente, me gustaría adquirir los planos y un dibujo original o autentificado del castillo, para atesorar con el que ya tengo. Algo gastado ya por el tiempo. Por otro lado, si alguno de uds. saben si el castillo está en venta, pues un objetivo personal y caprichoso, es recuperarlo para la familia. Ojo, tengo documentos que autentifican lo que digo. De antemano gracias por la información.

e-mail adress:

Los mejores deseos

David Moreno da Costa, D.

David Moreno da Costa said...



My name is David Moreno da Costa, and I'm direct descendant of Manuel da Costa, who built the Castle in "Barrio Recreo", Viña del Mar, and He was the first owner. Today, I recovered the symbols of this castle, which belonged to my family and I have an original drawing of the castle (known as Castillo de Borba). It is in the intersection of San Jose Poniente street with Agua Santa avenue. In the city of Viña del Mar. Please, if you have information on whether the enterprise architecture of Mr. Harrington's descendents is still valid, I would like to buy the planes and an original or authenticated drawing of the castle for treasure with which I already have. Something for the time already spent. Furthermore, if one of you. know if the castle is for sale, as a personal goal and capricious, is recall for the family. Attention: I have documents that authenticate what I say. In advance thanks for the information.

e-mail address:

Best regards,

David Moreno da Costa, D.

Daniel H said...

les dejo un enlace acerca de E.O.F. Harrington


Anonymous said...

Siendo el arquitecto Harrington tan importante para la ciudad de Valparaíso, llama la atención que no exista un museo (presencial o virtual) dedicado a su obra, que es inmensa. Lo anterior se entiende por la escasa cultura y sofisticación de sus actuales habitantes, quienes no entienden el tema patrimonial y la urgente necesidad de preservarlo.
En todo caso, E.O. Harrington permanece porfiadamente entre nosotros ya que sus obras más emblemáticas, a pesar de estar en lugares estratégicos de la ciudad, no despiertan la voracidad inmobiliaria que hay en otras partes del país.