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Ramón Alfonso Méndez Brignardello

(b Santiago, 1905; d 1999).

Chilean architect, collector and teacher. His family, in which he was the youngest of 14 children, moved from Chile to Europe in 1919 in anticipation of Chilean political and social unrest. He had no formal training but learnt much from travelling around Europe, attending some private classes and being in the company of adults. He knew the works of Proust, Apollinaire, Gide and Picasso, and became interested in the arts and avant-garde thought, familiarizing himself with the Bauhaus, Gropius, Le Corbusier and others. He decided to become an architect, and on returning to Chile studied architecture at the Universidad Católica de Valparaíso (qualified 1928), where teaching still followed Beaux-Arts methods. His first work was done in the practice of his cousin Jorge Arteaga, who passed on a commission to design the Edificio Oberpaur, Santiago (1929), reputedly the first work of contemporary architecture in Chile. The six-storey department store and office space was influenced by Erich Mendelsohn’s expressionistic style. Characterized by its continuous ‘wrap-around’ windows, the Oberpaur building was also the first in Chile to have ...