Covacevic, Gaggero, Medina, Echeñique and Gonzālez (1972) By de Cortazar Galleguillos, Gabriela Garcia
The architectural practice Covacevic, Gaggero, Medina, Echeñique and Gonzālez was established in 1971 for the sole purpose of designing a single building over a period of only 275 days. Despite its brief existence, its significance for Chilean architecture is paramount, both in terms of the specific building designed by the collective and because of the individual relevance of each architect. This “super-firm” was put together by Miguel Lawner and Jorge Wong, from the CORMU (Corporación de Mejoramiento Urbano—Urban Development Corporation), following the direct instruction of the then president, Salvador Allende, with the objective of designing the UNCTAD building.
UNCTAD III (the third United Nations Conference on Trade and Development) was scheduled to be held in Santiago in May 1972, and as Chile lacked an existing space to host it, the required 40,000-sq-m building had to be hastily constructed. This presented a challenge that would demand an exceptional combination of legal, human, and technical resources. The establishment of an ad hoc architectural practice and the selection of a recently vacated plot in downtown Santiago, among other strategies, made this building important not only in architectural terms, but also urban, social and, eventually, historical ones.