But it is not the sea air that makes Valparaiso paradisiacal. Founded on the only tiny bit of flat land trapped between cliffs and its natural harbor, the growing population was soon forced up onto the forty-six absurdly steep hills that seem always to be trying to push that original triangular wedge of land into the sea. The result is a riotous visual spectacle of a city splayed out over a coastal mountain range.
Developed around 1900, with the bulk of buildings going up just after a devastating earthquake in 1906, Playa Ancha was planned out on a grid, but little sense of this structured layout is sensed by a wanderer of the streets. As Waisberg writes: "The intention of applying a plan based on the grid did not hold up to reality; it is generally difficult to perceive, thanks to topographic conditions characterized by profound channels cut by streams, and the accentuated disparity in the level of the land, which resulted in the persistence of historic trails that had followed the curve of the contours." (My translation). This turned out to be quite an understatement.
Artilleria #156 today; it is a restaurant hanging off the edge of the cliff
Waisberg's photographs from 1988