Decoding Design

Chilean plant channels the rugged beauty of Patagonia

Posting in Architecture

This glacial water-bottling plant in Patagonia was designed to withstand the remote and rugged environment, and still do its job.

What does a company do when they are faced with natural barriers and challenges? They hire an architecture firm that can circumvent those challenges-- in the case of Chilean architecture firm Panorama, the problem was the naturally rugged terrain surrounding their new Glacier Water Bottling Plant at the edge of the remote Queulat National Park in Chile.

The remote location (three hours away from the nearest city) and severe landscape presented several unique challenges for the architects, other than the obvious fact that they are 3 hours away from any legitimate infrastructure. They built the building with as small of footprint as possible 18x18 meters(approximately 60ft x 60ft). They also designed the structure 1.5 meters (4.9 feet) on tapered soil to avoid floods from the nearby river.

The structure is made with recycled steel and supports the exterior which is made out of toughened glass, with a back opaque coating. The black coating helps protect against the weather and rugged conditions but also reflects the natural beauty around them and lessens the fish out of water feel that the building could have had in such a serene location. I am surprised it was black glass that did the trick.

The architects were presented with substantial environmental and logistical challenges but produced a clean, modern building that both stands out and blends in with the environment. What the building does best is reflect the beautiful scenery around it, while still serving as an efficient place to bottle the ever-percious commodity that is water. Regardless of your thoughts on bottled water, this building is purpose-built yet totally cool, and the care taken by the designers will undoubtedly serve their clients well.

[The Fox is Black]
Images: Panorama

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Beth Carter

Contributing Editor

Beth Carter is a freelance journalist based in San Francisco. She has worked for Catalyst magazine, the New York Times Syndicate, BBC Travel and Wired. She holds degrees from the University of Oregon and New York University. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure