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ARQ (Santiago)

versión On-line ISSN 0717-6996

ARQ (Santiago)  no.103 Santiago dic. 2019 

Works & projects

Enabling Basic Services for Patagonia Station

Germán Guzmán1 

Francisco Chateau2 

Diego Arroyo3 

Felipe Elton4 

Cristián Schmitt5 

6Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile

7Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile

8Universidad Católica de Chile

9Consultora Austral

10Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile


The study of ecosystems comes with a paradox: the observer - who is also a living being - can modify the object of study by getting involved in it. In the case of a Research Station within an ecosystem, such paradox becomes the main problem to be addressed by the project: how to position architecture among an ecological environment that is not used to it.

Keywords: ecology; infrastructure; design; Project; ecosystems

Source: © Germán Guzmán G.

Figure 1 Natural environment, high tide. 

The UC Patagonia Station for Interdisciplinary Research (Estación Patagonia) is an initiative undertaken by Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile in 2009, as the recipient of a 5,079-hectare property concession in the Exploradores Valley, Aysén Region. The goal of the station is to bring disciplines together from both social and natural sciences to study the ecology of this remote area of our country so as to understand and plan the relationship between the territory and the development of human settlements.

Figura 2 Traslado de piezas Santiago - Bahía Exploradores. 

Fuente: © Germán Guzmán G.

Figura 3 

The station is in an area disconnected from any central system of networks and services, 7 km from the Northern Patagonian Ice Fields, in a valley of wetlands generated by swamps. From Coyhaique airport, you travel 220 km to Puerto Río Tranquilo, located on the edge of General Carrera Lake, to then take the route that goes into the Exploradores Valley for another 85 km. From there, the site is accessed by sailing in a small boat through the fjord, which can only be navigated at high tide. This remote landscape condition determines not only the ecology study of a place far from large human settlements but also the design and construction of the building.

Source: © Germán Guzmán G.

Figure 4 Natural environment, low tide. 

We were commissioned to provide the minimum infrastructure to allow the work of researchers visiting the station from different parts of the world, who required electricity, drinking water, and sanitary services. In addition, due to the inclement weather, the need to take refuge from the natural context was considered an important part of the basic services for the program. Thus, the design is composed of elements that address this duality - interaction and refuge -, enabling different degrees of relation to the object of study.

Source: © Germán Guzmán G.

Figure 5 Location 

Therefore, the project contemplates, first of all, the construction of a wooden deck that forms an exposed habitable surface sheltered from soil moisture, connecting all the spaces in the complex. Secondly, assisted by students from the “Introduction to building” course, at UC School of Architecture, a large roof was designed to accommodate outdoor activities, allowing a direct relationship with the natural environment. Thirdly, a three-story service tower was incorporated to supply visitors with electric power through solar panels positioned on its deck, accumulation of drinking water in a tank on its upper floor and a bathroom in the lower one. The tower also provides intermediate spaces in the first two levels, which can be used by researchers to work and take shelter, allowing them to observe the exterior through a translucent membrane that covers and protects the structure laterally. Finally, the layout considers a space for two geodesic domes that are shielded from adverse weather conditions, taking distance from the surrounding nature.

Source: © Germán Guzmán G.

Figure 6 A. Walkway to the site; B. Tower construction; C. Moving pieces.  

Although this first infrastructural intervention in the Patagonia Station was aimed at delivering basic services for short-term scientific residencies, the proposal establishes different degrees of relationship between the designed spaces and the natural context, adding a new variable to the original order. In other words, architecture not only allows the development of the field research program but also enriches the researcher’s relationship with their object of study: ecology.

Source: © Germán Guzmán G.

Figure 7 

Figure 8 Plan complex. Published scale 1: 200 

Figure 9 Tower - first floor plan. Published scale 1: 50 

Figure 10 Tower - second floor plan. Published scale 1: 50 

Figure 11 Tower - third floor plan. Published scale 1: 50 

Figure 12 A. Tower pieces; B. Roof pieces. N. S. 

Figure 13 Axonometric. N. S. 

Enabling basic services for Estación Patagonia UC

Architects: Francisco Chateau Gannon, Germán Guzmán Gundermann, Felipe Elton Zañartu, Cristián Schmitt Rivera, Diego Arroyo Fernández

Contributors: Enzo Cortés, Benjamín Lezaeta, Miguel Delso, Nicolás Álamos, Ian Farmer

Location: Bahía Exploradores, Comuna de Aysén, Región de Aysén, Chile.

Client: Estación Patagonia de Investigaciones Interdisciplinarias UC, con el apoyo de Agencia Nacional de Investigación Francesa.

Photography: Germán G. Gundermann

Interior built surface: 110 m2

Exterior built Surface: 163 m2

Project year / Project year: 2017

Construction year: 2017-2018

* Germán Guzmán

Architect and Master in Landscape Architecture,

6Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile

, 2018. He has participated as teaching assistant in the School of Architecture Uc and currently works as a research assistant of the Fondecyt project: Desmontando el plano de Ernesto Ansart y el plan de transformación de Benjamín Vicuña Mackenna.

** Francisco Chateau

Architect and Master in Architecture,

7Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile

, 2002. Master in Architecture and Sustainability: Design Tools and Environmental Control Techniques, ETSA, Universidad Politécnica de Cataluña, 2010. He is a PhD candidate at the Departamento de Proyectos arquitectónicos of the same institution. He currently works on the PLUs-Chile project and is the director of the UC Biofabrication laboratory.

***Diego Arroyo

Architect, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, 2003. Master in Architectural Sciences, Sidney University, 2013, where he was the recipient of the David Rowe award. His work has been published in national and international indexed journals. He is currently a professor at

8Universidad Católica de Chile

and an associate at Lira Arquitectos Asociados.

**** Felipe Elton

Architect, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, 2017. He was an assistant of the UC Master’s course “Técnicas de construcción en madera” in 2017. He is currently a contributor to the Patagonia UC Station and works as an architect at

9Consultora Austral

(Puerto Montt).

***** Cristián Schmitt Architect,

10Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile

, 2003. Master in Advanced Studies in Architecture, British Columbia University, Canada, 2012. He currently serves as a teacher in the Technology Area of UC School of Architecture and Works at Centro UC de Innovación en Madera.

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