Santiago-based architects Emilio Marín and Juan Carlos López collaborated on the design of the centre, which was built alongside the first wind farm to be installed in northern Chile.
Research center in Chile Atacama, the driest desert in the world - the site includes an observatory, research labs and a central patio area that is shielded from the wind in order to be used as a small oasis, with its own ecosystem and vegetation.
The main goal for architects was to propose a program as well as a design for a building able to expose different layers of the meaning of the desert: natural, cultural and energetic.
With a lack of a clear definition to focus on, the architects saw the possibility to articulate other aspects of the relationship between territory and architecture, to break that dichotomy and integrate the proposal as a new landscape in the desert, a device that evokes other interpretations, an observatory where visitors change their understanding of this specific natural environment.
Firstly, in relation to the geographical dimension of the desert, there was a decision to create different volumes, positioned against the distant volcanoes of the Andes. In the second layer, fitting the appearance of the large and disproportionate monochrome textures of the Atacama Desert, the building is covered in one single material. Corten steel envelops the whole of the architectural form, causing it to appear as a rock of molten steel in the vastness of the desert. The third element is the patio space, which creates a new ecological dimension within the project, a new ecosystem. The volume frames a central vacuum, which it protects from wind, allowing the existence of a small oasis.