Understanding and documenting decorated façades of the Coquimbo Region in Chile

The present contribution aims at documenting decorated earthen architecture in the Coquimbo Region of Chile, in the provinces of Limarí and Elqui, specifically in Tulahuén and Pisco Elqui. The peculiarity of these decorated façades is their rich ornamental composition, resulting in interesting patterns and textural realizations. These decorated façades witness the significance of Chilean earthen heritage and thus deserve an in-depth investigation.
The vernacular buildings observed in the Limarí Valley present irregular and non-formal geometric decorations and graphic representation, engraved motifs and tiling, and wavy patterns, creatively interpreting the façade as the owner’s canvas. The earthen architecture of Pisco Elqui shows a formal façade decorative composition, which could be associated with the presence of a school of masters and artisans with decorative expertise. The latter façades present classical features and stuccoes combined with geometrically composed pattern textures and engraved elements. The vernacular decorations of Limarí buildings’ façades enclose immaterial values and express themselves through the anonymous touch of the inhabitants, revealing intimate stories and ancient local memories.
The present paper also promotes the possibility of reviving this decorative tradition as a tool for contemporary projects for the renovation of earthen houses at the urban scale, enhancing the importance of using local and sustainable materials.