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ARQ (Santiago)

versión On-line ISSN 0717-6996

ARQ (Santiago)  no.97 Santiago dic. 2017 

Works & projects

The value of transforming: Academic building, Faculty of Arts, Oriente campus

Fernando Pérez Oyarzun1 

José Quintanilla Chala2 

1 Profesor titular, Escuela de Arquitectura, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, Santiago, Chile.

2 Profesor, Escuela de Arquitectura, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, Santiago, Chile.


An intervention on a heritage building can either increase or ruin its value. Architecture has that power. The fear of affecting the value of what already exists leads many to opt for mimesis. However, such an obvious alternative is not the only one. This building shows that, by means of a careful interpretation of the existing, an intervention can add value to heritage without the need to formally duplicate it.

Keywords: heritage; interpretation; pre-existing; Santiago; Chile

Source: © Philippe Blanc

Figure 1 

The intensification of building that is proper of architecture supposes an increase of value in the built environment. The notion of ‘enhancing the value’ is often used in relation to heritage and cultural assets. This underscores the importance of identifying and showing what, in one sense or another, we value from a built-up setting. On the other hand, expanding and completing a Neo-Romanesque complex built in the mid-1920s requires careful interpretation. As has been noted by Gadamer (1997 (1960)), to interpret is not so much about imposing our subjective appreciation of things, but rather about discovering the latent possibilities within them.

Source: © José Quintanilla

Figure 2 

Source: © Juan Purcell

Figure 3 

The commission for the academic building of the Faculty of Arts was part of a larger plan: to transform an area of the campus into a public program center. It was requested, in this context, to gather in a single building the offices belonging to the professors of the three schools that make up the Faculty. To do so, a plot was chosen at the end of the campus, one on which Juan Lyon and Luis Otaegui - authors of the original project - had placed a volume that was never built.

Figure 4 Site plan. Published scale 1: 1.1250 

The point of departure was precisely that unbuilt pavilion, from which position, bays, and measures proper of the grid regulating the entire campus were adopted. The articulation between the two stories of the old building and the four corresponding to the new one, forced to partially sink the planned volume in order to give continuity to the second-floor circulation. Still, the surface needed required generating a double bay on the first level. The access circulation between these two volumes added to the campus an entirely new element of composition, as Guadet (1905) would say. The same thing happened with the North-South connection that, by going under the building, links the courtyard with the sports area, offering an unprecedented visual and dimensional extension to the complex. The upper terrace crowning the volume contrasts with the metal gable roofs that dominate the campus, but offers in exchange the possibility of a dialogue with them and the surrounding landscape, enabling, from the heights, a very densely occupied interior space to breath.

Figure 5 First floor plan. Published scale 1: 250 

Figure 6 Second floor plan. Published scale 1: 250 

Figure 7 Third floor plan. Published scale 1: 250 

In material terms, a sympathetic position was taken towards the original building, which shows - for one of the first times in Chile - the pairing of reinforced concrete and brick masonry that would become essential in the following decades. However, the relationship between both materials - originally one of contiguity - was devised in the form of two overlapping layers that embrace each other generating between them a ventilated, isolated chamber. This favors the building’s thermal performance and allows to adequately solve its structure. Inspired thus by the thickness of the old Neo-Romanesque walls, a construction system with a double wall was proposed, still not frequent in Chile.

The proposal has been conceived as a simple perimeter structure container subdivided by removable partitions with maximum rationality. This allows the building to easily adapt to future functional requirements. The size and position of the internal circulation allow differentiating each of the plants.

Figure 8 North elevation. Published scale 1: 250. 

Figure 9 South elevation. Published scale 1: 250. 

Figure 10 AA Section. Published scale 1: 250. 

Source: © José Quintanilla

Figure 11 

Source: © José Quintanilla

Figure 12 

Source: © Juan Purcell

Figure 13 

Figure 14 BB Section. Published scale 1: 250. 

Figure 15 CC Section. Published scale 1: 250. 

Source: © Philippe Blanc

Figure 16 

Source: © Philippe Blanc

Figure 17 

In its silence, its discretion, its material and formal empathy with the context, the building seems to have always been there. However, the double-level patio offers unprecedented possibilities, including that of generating an improvised scene. While maintaining the strict set of measures and sizes imposed by the authors on the original building, the facades offer a degree of randomness that arises not from a formal will, but from managing the requirements of its interior layout. These were the latent possibilities valued by the proposal. In its way, it highlights the extent to which the value of preserving can be mediated by a transformative action capable of granting a new vitality to the building.

Fuente: © José Quintanilla

Figura 18 

Fuente: © Philippe Blanc

Fuente: © Philippe Blanc

Figura 20 

Academic building, Faculty of Arts, Oriente campus

Architects: Fernando Pérez Oyarzun, José Quintanilla Chala

Collaborators: Equipo DESE - Mónica Flores, Luis Lucero, Carolina Rodríguez

Location: Av. Jaime Guzmán Errázuriz 3300, Providencia, Santiago de Chile

Client: Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile

Engineering: Sergio Contreras y Asociados

Construction: Empresa GHG SA

Energy Efficiency: Waldo Bustamante

Materials: Concrete, brick, glass

Budget: us$ 1.780/m2

Built surface: 1.763 m2

Project year: 2013-2014

Construction year: 2014-2017

Photographs: Philippe Blanc, Juan Purcell, José Quintanilla


GADAMER, Hans Georg. Verdad y Método I. Salamanca: Ediciones Sígueme, 1997. [ Links ]

GADAMER, Hans Georg. Verdad y Método II. Salamanca: Ediciones Sígueme , 1998. [ Links ]

GUADET, Julien. Eléments et théorie de l’architecture : cours professé a l’Ecole nationale et Speciale des beaux arts, avec une notice sur la vie et les oeuvres de Julien Guadet. Paris: Librairie de la Construction Moderne, 1905. [ Links ]


Fernando Pérez Oyarzun Architect, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, 1977. Doctor in Architecture, Escuela Técnica Superior de Arquitectura de Barcelona, 1981. He is currently tenured professor at the UC. He was Director of the School of Architecture between 1987-1990; Dean of the Faculty of Architecture and Fine Arts between 1990-2000 and Head of the Doctorate Program in Architecture and Urban Studies between 2014- 2016. He has also been Visiting Design Critic at Harvard University, Simón Bolívar Professor at the University of Cambridge and Fellow of the Swedish Center for Advanced Studies. His publications include works on modern architecture in Chile and South America. Has worked as an architect individually and as part of larger teams, undertaking various interventions in heritage buildings.


José Quintanilla Chala Architect, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, 1993. Doctor in Architecture, Escuela Técnica Superior de Arquitectura de Barcelona, 2004. He is a member of the Colegio Oficial de Arquitectos de Cataluña, Spain. Since 2010 is a professor at the School of Architecture, Design and Urban Studies UC. In 2007 establishes Opalum, an architecture studio based in Barcelona. Among his collaborations are the studies for the Judicial City of Barcelona and L’Hospitalet de Llobregat (in collaboration with Enric Soria) and the Integral Rehabilitation of La Modelo Penitentiary Center, together with the School of Judges of Spain. Among his publications is the book Los hechos de la arquitectura in collaboration with Fernando Pérez and Alejandro Aravena.

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