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99% Invisible-73- The Zanzibar and Other Building Poems

Roman Mars on February 17, 2013 03:51

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    There comes a time in the life of a modern city where it begins to grow up--literally. Santiago, the capital of Chile, has been going through a tremendous growth spurt since its economic boom of the mid 1990s. It happened fast. In just a few years, single family homes all over the city were replaced with high rises.

    A man named Rodrigo Rojas played a small part in Santiago’s "upward mobility"--which wouldn’t be that remarkable if he were an engineer, a real estate developer, or an architect. But Rodrigo Rojas is a poet.

    This is how it worked: A developer bought an old house, tore it down, and had an architect draw up plans for a high rise. And then Rodrigo stepped in to give the building a name. Rodrigo even fabricated whole stories in the service of building an identity. He came up with one story about a ship called the Zanzibar, a luxury liner built with the Titanic, but slightly smaller. You've never heard of it, he explained, because the Zanzibar never sank.

    Our reporter this week is Daniel Alarcón, host and executive producer of Radio Ambulante.

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