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In Chile, Modern Housing Fit For Ancient Customs

Architects near Santiago are building a new kind of housing in Chile, both modern and adapted to the ancient culture of the Mapuche community.

A Mapuche woman near the housing units built by architects from Undurraga Devés in Huechuruba, near Santiago.
A Mapuche woman near the housing units built by architects from Undurraga Devés in Huechuruba, near Santiago.

SANTIAGO — This new kind of home combines practicality with cultural understanding. Chilean architects from Undurraga Devés have recently worked with members of the indigenous Mapuche community in Huechuruba, near Santiago, to help build a very specific type of housing: a place that would not only meet their basic needs, but also respect their traditions and ideas.

The goal is to help the housing units' residents "participate in modern society without discarding their identity," as the architects from Undurraga Devés put it. This has become a major focus of the studio, founded in 1978 — launching "low-tech" and culturally sensitive housing projects in Chile.

Architects have built a total of 25 housing units, within a larger complex comprising 415 "standard" council houses. Together, they attempt to reconcile two styles, and two ways of life — global and aboriginal. The idea came directly from the Mapuche community, whose members wanted to be a part of modern society without losing their identity.

The housing units built by architects from Undurraga Devés in Huechuruba, near Santiago in Chile. Courtesy of the Undurraga Devés studio.

The way these housing units are conceived embodies this quest for a cultural — and stylistic — compromise. They are aligned and their facades face east, which respects the Mapuche tradition of "opening the main door to the rising sun." That aspect was one of the community's main requests. A large corridor then separates the houses from the cliffs besides them, constituting a shared, public space.

Each unit has an area of 61 square meters, spread on two floors. Cooking is done on the ground floor — where the Mapuche have always kept the stove — and bathrooms and beds are upstairs.

The community has very specific notions of privacy. Architects observed while building the units that the Mapuche reject any form of continuity, or transparency, between the inside and the outside. The interior must remain in the shadow, to "create a perception of its own time, different from the time that passes outside, in the city."

Building techniques have combined the traditional use of bricks with reinforced concrete for the main frames. In this seismic zone, the front and back sides of every unit are fortified with a diagonal wooden beam, designed to hold the side walls in case of earthquakes — a daily possibility no Chilean could ever forget.

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FOCUS: Israel-Palestine War

Why The U.S. Lost Its Leverage In The Middle East — And May Never Get It Back

In the Israel-Hamas war, Qatar now plays the key role in negotiations, while the United States appears increasingly disengaged. Shifts in the region and beyond require that Washington move quickly or risk ceding influence to China and others for the long term.

Photograph of U.S Secretary of State Antony Blinken  shaking hands with sraeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant.

November 30, 2023, Tel Aviv, Israel: U.S Secretary of State Antony Blinken shakes hands with Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant.

Chuck Kennedy/U.S State/ZUMA
Sébastien Boussois


PARIS — Upon assuming office in 2008, then-President Barack Obama declared that United States would gradually begin withdrawing from various conflict zones across the globe, initiating a complex process that has had a major impact on the international landscape ever since.

This started with the American departure from Iraq in 2010, and was followed by Donald Trump's presidency, during which the "Make America Great Again" policy redirected attention to America's domestic interests.

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The withdrawal trend resumed under Joe Biden, who ordered the exit of U.S. forces from Afghanistan in 2021. To maintain a foothold in all intricate regions to the east, America requires secure and stable partnerships. The recent struggle in addressing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict demonstrates that Washington increasingly relies on the allied Gulf states for any enduring influence.

Since the collapse of the Camp David Accords in 1999 during Bill Clinton's tenure, Washington has consistently supported Israel without pursuing renewed peace talks that could have led to the establishment of a Palestinian state.

While President Joe Biden's recent challenges in pushing for a Gaza ceasefire met with resistance from an unyielding Benjamin Netanyahu, they also stem from the United States' overall disengagement from the issue over the past two decades. Biden now is seeking to re-engage in the Israel-Palestine matter, yet it is Qatar that is the primary broker for significant negotiations such as the release of hostages in exchange for a ceasefire —a situation the United States lacks the leverage to enforce.

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