Within the Andes Mountains, the San Pedro Hot Springs is a place to press pause and contemplate, which interrupts a transnational highway between Chile and Argentina. Although these natural pools became a public landmark within the route, they eventually fell over time into a state of abandonment and deterioration as a result of the constant seismic movements in the region.
In response to this situation, Chilean architect Pia Montero sought to highlight the baths for her built-project thesis at the University of Talca in order to consolidate it as a landmark of tourist potential and symbol of the territorial identity of the Maule Region. Moreover, the project is a wake-up call to rediscover and rescue the value of the natural and cultural heritage of the area from the gradual abandonment into which it fell over the years.
The project consists of a longitudinal piece that allows the circulation of thermal water between pools, an operation that establishes a dialogue with the landscape through the use of the same materials, colors, and textures that characterize the San Pedro baths. The Reconversion of the San Pedro Hot Springs was also recognized by the Young Talent Architecture Award 2020 (YTAA 2020) as part of the project "Three places to inhabit the mountain range in the Maule region" alongside Maria Jesús Molina and Antonia Ossa.
As explained by Montero:
The project was a consequence of traveling on the Andes mountains and identifying its stony consistency, always linked to a body of water. Contemplating the river current and the thermal water running allowed me to distinguish the different minerals that emanate from the soil. The minerales stained orange the concrete throughout the years, generating a salt crust that waterproofed the soil and allowed the transition between the pools.
As a final step of the Paso Vergara International Route that runs parallel to the Teno River, the thermal baths offer a pause to travelers who can renew their energy through the therapeutic qualities provided by hot water and its various minerals. The reconversion designed by Montero allows not only to rescue of this endangered natural value but also resumes the operation of the pools: a subtle soil work was carried out that rescues the pre-existing footprint by means of the construction of a route that connects the river bed the upper pools through a series of reinforced concrete steps.
Secondly, this milestone creates a viewpoint in the high mountains by building a horizontal post-tensioned wooden platform that serves as a setting for the various associated activities to thermal baths. The third intervention consists of a system that collects the hot springs through a receptacle and two reinforced concrete beams, which sets the narrative behind the project.
As explained by Montero,
Assumed as a symbolic geographical space for Chile, the Andes Mountains loses its identity and cultural presence to overlap as a political border. Thus excluding any vestige of identity, cultural manifesto and form of previous occupation that undoubtedly distinguish and give value to the Andes.
This article is part of the ArchDaily Topic: Adaptive Reuse. Every month we explore a topic in-depth through articles, interviews, news, and projects. Learn more about our monthly topics. As always, at ArchDaily we welcome the contributions of our readers; if you want to submit an article or project, contact us.