43rd Annual Meeting – Architecture Specialty Group – May 15, Concrete Actions to Extreme Risks: Conservation of Humberstone and Santa Laura Saltpeter Works World Heritage site in danger, IQUIQUE, Chile, Alicia Fernandez Boan

Humberstone Salitrera Iquique Chile taken by Carlos Valera on December 30, 2012
Humberstone Salitrera Iquique Chile taken by Carlos Valera on December 30, 2012

During the Architecture Specialty Group Session, Alicia Fernandez Boan focused on the conservation efforts and needs for two World Monument sites that represent the salt peter mining era in Chile.
The salt peter works are remains of human activity in the Atacama desert. Operation began as part of Peruvian territory in mid-19th century. They were declared world heritage sites in 2005. Humberstone and Santa Laura represent over 200 salt peter works that once existed. The Atacama desert has a temperature extremes from 0 deg c at night to 40 deg c midday, which takes it’s toll on the built environment. The cultural landscape is made up of the structures and surrounding site that is formed due to the accumulation of byproducts of the mining efforts.
At Humberstone, the structures and buildings of the community remain — church, school houses. Alternately, Santa Laura is representative of the industrial sectors found in saltpeter works. The materials are exposed to extreme weather. The structures are also exposed to salts and chemicals that were part of the production. There are dozens of rust colored structures. They include generalized corrosion and galvanized losses.
In order to maintain these sites, several factors must be considered. The conservation of urban sites requires establishment of commercial activity so that the site can be self-sufficient and sustainable. Therefore rehabilitation, recycling, controlled use, and the reoccupation of the territory is greatly needed. Use of these sites as museums documenting the industrial age of salt works is currently happening but more is needed. Rehabilitation, recycling, controlled use, the reoccupation of the territory works will be necessary for the long-term preservation of the sites.
From a conservation standpoint, the sites have conservations needs but they offer the possibility of a conservation field laboratory. This is a place where cleaning tests and environmental aging tests could offer substantial information to the preservation community. The sites offer the ability to study corrosion on a monumental scale under extreme weather conditions.