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Río Cruces Wetland Center headquarters as an opportunity of cultural heritage recovery for Valdivia

Río Cruces Wetland Center is advancing on a project to restore an old and abandoned house to install its headquarters on Cabo Blanco by the Cau Cau river. The house is property of Universidad Austral de Chile and it has not been used since it was donated to the University by its owners; a german family. Río Cruces Wetland Center is preparing its permanent facilities on a 6 ha campus that will also provide the opportunity to enjoy the outdoors and connect with the Sanctuary.

The architect on charge, Gerardo Saelzer, and his team have conducted the design of this project. They are experts on the restoration of patrimonial buildings, having worked on several houses and buildings that are property of Universidad Austral de Chile, including “Casa Ehrenfeld” (Conservatory of Music), “Casa Luis Oyarzún”, and “Casa Central”, and they are bringing such expertise to the future headquarters of Río Cruces Wetland Center.

“Río Cruces Wetland Center headquarters will be placed right on one of the junctions between the city of Valdivia and Carlos Andwanter Natural Sanctuary: the Cau Cau river. This new space designed for the community of of the Region will add value to the natural and built heritage. This place is habitat for diverse avifauna, amphibians, and riparian vegetation will also be connected by boat, and will recover part of the history of the European structures built in the area”, Saelzer comments.

The house itself is a building that dates from the first half of the 20th Century and it has elements of the European-influence that is prevalent in the Los Ríos and Los Lagos Regions of southern Chile. It has 574 m2 divided on three levels: the lowest level will host permanent and dynamic exhibits where visitors will learn about different aspects of the history and natural history of the Rio Cruces wetland and its surrounding communities. The middle level will have a small cafeteria, a store and an auditorium with capacity of up to fifty people. And the upper level will hold the offices for Río Cruces Wetland Center staff to work and have meetings. The recovery of this structure will not only brings value to the house itself, but to its history, the community around it, and more broadly to the Natural Sanctuary Río Cruces Wetland Center is striving to help protect.

“After coming to the visitor center, people will have a chance to experience the wetland. We are projecting that the campus will be reachable by boat, which will certainly enrich the experience of the visitors. This space will be designed to become a sustainable place where people can connect with their natural heritage”, Saelzer explains.

The restoration work is planned to begin during the first semester of this year, and the headquarters and the main campus are planned to be opened on the second half of 2018.