The building that would not die: Chilean colossus proves pure movie magic

By Oliver Wainwright

It's been seized, occupied, converted, burned and reborn. And the film about its extraordinary life kicks off the inaugural Architecture film festival in London, which also features work by Julien Temple and Jacques Tati

With its rusted Corten steel canopy thrusting out over the pavement like the roof of an oversized petrol station, the GAM cultural centre is an arresting sight on the streets of Santiago de Chile. But it is even more remarkable when you learn that this gargantuan shed, and the 22-storey tower that looms behind it, was summoned into existence in just 275 days by a frenzied army of volunteer builders in the 1970s, since when it has been seized, occupied, converted, burned to the ground and, recently, reborn.

This eventful life is colourfully documented in Escapes de Gas (Gas Leaks), the opening film in the inaugural ArchFilmFest London, a week-long jamboree of architectural films that promises to shine a spotlight on the secret lives of our cities.

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