This is the second finalist of the international competition for the Alma Hotel Residence for ESO. The competition was won by Kouvo & Partanen.
The main idea of the proposal for the Alma Hotel Residence by Coz Polidura Volante Architects takes us back to archaic structural typologies inherent to the Atacama culture, easily distinguishable in areas like Turi ruins, Lasana or Pucara de Quitor in San Pedro de Atacama. The layout of the building takes advantage of the program modules of rooms, repeating this form of modular design of fullness and emptiness, which means an operation sensible to light and shadow, as occurs at the site between streams and mountains. More images and architects’ description after the break.
The site is located in the Chajnantor plain up to 3.000 meters above sea level, and will be a fundamental part of the research base complex of European Southern Observatory in Antofagasta region, Chile. The project strategy is organized around the subtle slope of land and the massive soil that constitutes it. The fact that the ground is a constant, throughout human existence, is accustomed to regard as a truism, maximizing the variable in the sense Chile is considered a “topographical construction” constituted by its relation to the Andes cordillera, which runs from north to south.
The attention to the ground, in its continuity and natural balcony condition over the salar de Atacama, evidence and framed this key statement to understanding the appropriate implementation of the building and its parts in the site given by competition organizers. Thus, the project focuses on the existing natural condition to avoid major changes in the morphology of the site, which in turn is enhanced by an architectural program of functional requirements that generally develops in three parts or milestones.
The first episode, one that is foundational, is the North access to the Hotel and common areas, including the main living room, the dining room, game room and extending through an intermediate space framing the breathtaking view of the salar. The second area consists of housing units, which make up a total of 120 rooms developed in terraces to accommodate researchers and scientists from around the world. Finally, in the South zone, lies the Spa and recreation areas, always guiding the views of the visual drama of the gran salar and the valleys that make up the Atacama Desert.
This modeling of the slope, interspersed with courtyards and rooms for guests, provides privacy and quiet to users. It is also a way to handle the different scales of project, emulating the idea of home that we want to print to our proposal. This succession of courtyards, in addition to avoid the heat of northern Chile and provide natural lighting and ventilation to the rooms, operates as a rhythmical operation, framing breathtaking views to the magnificent and ever changing faces of the world’s driest desert.
Patios also provide the opportunity, taking advantage of views, to strategically position common rooms for relaxation and meeting for guests in their leisure and relax in the immediacy of their rooms. The proposal implicitly recognizes three levels in cross-section: the first level of access is geographically marked by a stone wall that evidence the containment in the north-south axis, connecting the building’s common areas with a generously proportion street serving rooms with patios and vertical connections, to end at the Spa with fitness room and swimming pool in an intermediate space that enhances the “promenade” experience.
The middle and lower levels completely accommodate the program rooms of Hotel ALMA, including paths interconnecting vertical and horizontal terraced decks. Viewed in detail means that the roofs of the rooms are a continuation of the plateau route, providing a sustainable solution for energy saving, insulating the room slabs, also as a way of defusing the intensity of the sun during the day. Finally the appearance of the building is a blend between “before” and “new” leaving clear our intention to make a mimetic operation between the project and site, as if it had always been there.
The building and its components stratify the site, rediscovering the value of land where it is located, placing value on a material condition which is given by the sum of gaps, the subtlety of the shadows, and praise to the materials and forms of northern culture in Chile.
Hotel Alma rests in the history of the Atacama architectural types, providing a universal and contemporary look to a tanning place by the grooves of millions of years of this land. The atmosphere of the ALMA Hotel, both day and night, is articulated by intimate episodes and close to home for its guests and visitors. That is the most important issue of our proposal.