A Shingle-Clad Prefab Anchors Itself on Patagonia’s Largest Lake
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A Shingle-Clad Prefab Anchors Itself on Patagonia’s Largest Lake

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By Lucy Wang / Photos by Nico Saieh
Prefab construction makes it possible for SAA Arquitectura + Territorio to build this impressive retreat in a remote region.

In wild, rugged Patagonia, Chilean architectural firm SAA Arquitectura + Territorio has crafted a comfortable and contemporary home in a notoriously inhospitable environment where access to materials and labor is limited.

Set on the shores of Patagonia's largest lake, Casa Sombreros is located near the village of Puerto Rio Tranquilo, four hours south of Aysen Region's capital of Coyhaique.

Set on the shores of Patagonia's largest lake, Casa Sombreros is located near the village of Puerto Rio Tranquilo, four hours south of Aysen Region's capital of Coyhaique.

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The challenges posed by the remote terrain were a tradeoff for the site’s spellbinding beauty. The Santiago–based client selected a spot on the shores of the largest lake in Patagonia, Lake General Carrera, for its turquoise-blue waters, snow-capped granite mountains, and glittering glaciers in the distance.

The architects created a simple, shed-like refuge so as to not detract from the surrounding environment.

The architects created a simple, shed-like refuge so as to not detract from the surrounding environment.

Large decks and walls of glass blur the boundaries between indoor/outdoor living.

Large decks and walls of glass blur the boundaries between indoor/outdoor living.

To mitigate the harsh construction conditions, the architects turned to prefab construction. For strength and efficiency, SIP panels were used for the floors, walls, and roof. Local carpentry techniques were applied to the detailing, crafted with native wood, as a nod to the local Patagonian vernacular. 

The exterior is entirely sheathed in shingles made from locally sourced lenga wood, a species native to the Patagonia-Andean forests.

The exterior is entirely sheathed in shingles made from locally sourced lenga wood, a species native to the Patagonia-Andean forests.

Since the remote site and harsh climate made access to supplies and labor difficult, the architects used prefabricated materials and construction methods.

Since the remote site and harsh climate made access to supplies and labor difficult, the architects used prefabricated materials and construction methods.

Thanks to prefabricated construction, the house was built over the course  of five months and anchored directly into bedrock for a foundation strong enough to withstand the region’s unforgiving climate.

The foundations were anchored directly into bedrock.

The foundations were anchored directly into bedrock.

"The main design was to make a project that could be related to the landscape, at the same time providing a comforting interior and common hierarchical spaces," say the architects, who named the house Casa Sombreros.

"An important part of the work was to design large common spaces, and to be able to receive a large number of people," note the architects. "The common spaces are designed for the coexistence between family and friends." 

"An important part of the work was to design large common spaces, and to be able to receive a large number of people," note the architects. "The common spaces are designed for the coexistence between family and friends." 

Coigüe timber, a species native to the Andean part of Patagonia, was used for the interior flooring. The outdoor deck is made from oak.

Coigüe timber, a species native to the Andean part of Patagonia, was used for the interior flooring. The outdoor deck is made from oak.

Local carpenters built the furnishings.

Local carpenters built the furnishings.

To maximize east-facing views of the lake and access to natural light, the residence is arranged as two slightly offset pavilions set parallel to the lake for northeast orientation. The volume closest to the lake extends towards the north and comprises the common areas and the master bedroom. The secondary pavilion contains four additional bedrooms linked by a long hallway with views of the lake. 

Casa Sombreros comprises two interconnected, rectangular volumes parallel to the lake. The larger volume contains the living spaces and extends northwards to capture natural light.

Casa Sombreros comprises two interconnected, rectangular volumes parallel to the lake. The larger volume contains the living spaces and extends northwards to capture natural light.

Sheathed in wood inside and out, Casa Sombreros has a distinctly rustic feel that’s underscored by its low-profile, gabled silhouettes and use of traditional building techniques.

A long hallway connects the bedrooms and overlooks views of the lake.

A long hallway connects the bedrooms and overlooks views of the lake.

"The project aspires to be timeless by way of resolving the exterior cladding with a single material, the lenga shingle, a finish which binds the house to local building traditions," explain the architects.

The view from the master bedroom deck down the length of the house. 

The view from the master bedroom deck down the length of the house. 

The home’s modest footprint takes care not to disturb the land. "The architectural detail enriches the concept of a refuge by revealing its constructive will toward amplitude and transparency achieved through the steel and glass enclosing an interior which, immersed in nature, blends in instead of standing out," say the architects.

Casa Sombreros Floor Plan

Casa Sombreros Floor Plan

Casa Sombreros Site Plan

Casa Sombreros Site Plan

Related Reading: A Patagonian Prefab Cabin Is Built to Withstand Volatile Climates

Project Credits:

Architect of Record: SAA architects

Builder/ General Contractor: Juan Mena team 

Structural Engineer: Alberto Ramirez

Manager Contractor: Hugo Hidd