Architects: Nicolás del Rio - Max Núñez
Collaborator: Oltmann Ahlers
Location: Farellones, Santiago, Chile
Finished: June 2008
Structural Engineer: Enzo Valladares
Building Contractor: Eduardo Torreblanca
Built surface: 140 m²
Materials: Steel frame, plywood, slate stone
Photographs: Felipe Camus
The site was an existing void in the middle of a slope, bound on two sides by old containment walls built of stone. These walls defined a level area of approximately 12 x 10m, 7.5m below the level of the road. A few scattered trees seemed significant, as vegetation is hard to find at an altitude of 2000m in the middle of the Andes mountains.
The intense bright light reflected by the snow, together with the thermal loss through windows and walls are important aspects when building in the mountains. These conditions were something that the old mountain chalets, built in the town of Farellones between the 40’s and 70’s, took into account through small interior spaces and thick stone walls with very small openings in their façades.
In the designing of this mountain refuge we proposed a monolithic volume of stone that partially fills the void left by the existing containment walls. Window openings are minimal and were placed in order to illuminate specific situations or to frame certain aspects of the surrounding landscape, keeping away the sight of the neighbours.
This stone cube is intersected by other elements that overhang from its perimeter, modifying the basic figure and giving it an orientation towards specific external features.
The period of good weather for building in this altitude is very short (6 months), so a rapid construction plan was required. We decided to build with a prefabricated steel frame structure that would reduce the time needed for assembly. This metal cage was then covered with different layers of insulation responding to specific needs; much like the clothes of a mountain climber.
First, an interior plywood cladding for a warmer atmosphere on the inside, then a double thermal insulation within the steel structure, next a waterproof membrane, and finally an exterior cladding of black slate stone. This external finish resists the harsh weather of extremely low temperatures, snow and rain. It also establishes a material link with the old stone refuges nearby.
Unlike the nearby existing structures, whose construction is now too expensive, here the stone doesn’t take on a structural role. This is accentuated by the vertical and horizontal position of the stone and by not letting the cladding touch the ground.
Mountain lodges normally receive more people than they can lodge, more mountain gear than they can store, more logs than they can burn, and the design had to foresee this situation. To take this into account the structure was divided into 3 independent floors. A first floor with 4 small bedrooms, a second floor with a common space with four areas for eating, playing, sitting and cooking, and a third floor for access and with enough space to store mountain equipment.
Maximum use of space in extreme weather conditions.