Centro Tecnológico San Joaquín

Santiago, Chile
Alejandro Aravena

Architects Alejandro Aravena, Charles Murray, Alfonso Montero and Ricardo Torrejón bring a riveting landmark to a college campus.

By Jeannette Plaut
This is an excerpt of an article from the December 2007 edition of Architectural Record.

An unusual building, commissioned for one of the various campuses of the renowned Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, demonstrates an architectonic search into the nature of traditional educational spaces. Designed to contain computer equipment and labs for the campus, this attractive volume appears to be commenting on the subtle yet strong contradiction between contemporary technology and state-of-the-art construction.

Centro Tecnológico San Joaquín
Photography by Cristóbal Palma

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Intended to house 500 students, classrooms, laboratories, offices, and various rooms for computers, technical support, and machinery in a 51,000-square-foot structure, the design needed to take into account the restraints of low-budget construction in a remote area. With a budget of only $400 per square meter (about $40 a square foot), the Chilean architects Alejandro Aravena, Charles Murray, Alfonso Montero, and Ricardo Torrejón sought to create an environment where new means of learning could take place in a digital world governed by binary language.

Although the university had specifically wanted a glass tower rising from the center of the campus’s main park, Aravena and his fellow architects came up with a creative solution: They designed an obliquely angled nine-story structure, which, like a tree’s branches, splits into two separate volumes at the seventh floor. The tower appears to be a Siamese double-headed form united by a great body. Yet its bent shape is achieved while keeping both walls and columns absolutely perpendicular to each floor. The architects created the cranked configuration of the outer layer by attaching a glass curtain wall to steel arms of different lengths extending from the concrete structure. The mullions of the glass envelope echo the floor plates of the internal structure, reinforcing the spatial reading of the tower-within-a-tower.

With an architectonic language that articulates boldness and functionality, Aravena, Murray, Montero, and Torrejón successfully confronted this educational commission with an original solution in spite of a restrictive budget. The result is a building that is perceived as a big boost for life on campus and one that deals positively and imaginatively with Santiago’s imperfect construction conditions. The sleekly innovative structure will no doubt be considered as an important contribution to the Modern architecture of Chile.

Formal name of project: Centro Tecnológico San Joaquín

Location: Santiago, Chile

Gross square footage: 4.739,48 m2

Total construction cost: $3.000.000

Owner: Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile

Completion date: March, 2006

Alejandro Aravena, Charles Murray, Alfonso Montero and Ricardo Torrejón
El Comendador 1916,
Providencia Santigo-Chile.
Phone: 56 2 354 7726
Fax: 56 2 354 7749

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