In Chile—a country known for its natural beauty—Malalcahuello is something of a hidden gem. Located in the heart of the Araucanía Region, about 400 miles south of Santiago, the mountainous town is home to two national reserves rich with evergreen forests and dramatic landscapes dominated by volcanoes, streams, and lakes.
It’s an environment that’s at once imposing and inspiring, not to mention extremely challenging to build in—just ask architect Sergio Araneda of SAA Arquitectura + Territorio, who recently completed a home in Malalcahuello for a couple from Santiago.
His firm is dedicated to working in Patagonia, calling it "a privilege and a huge responsibility" to design and build in such a fragile landscape—and it was this deep understanding of the region that attracted these clients.
"We chose them for their holistic approach to solving complex issues," say the owners, noting that Araneda’s firm understands "that the territory it inhabits is as important as the house itself. They are genuinely environmentally conscious and design with a vision for future generations."
The couple had left the city during the pandemic, and they wanted a home where they could connect with the forests and mountains. Araneda embraced the remote landscape with a timber-clad residence that appears to float above the ground.
Two volumes—one for bedrooms and bathrooms, the other for living and common spaces—sit at a slight angle to each other, connected by a glass hallway that offers views of the surrounding trees.
A large wraparound deck and elevated walkway extend the home into the dense, ancient forest, which Araneda took great care to conserve. The 15.75" elevation of the structure not only allows for natural ventilation and humidity control, but it protects the biodiversity of the forest floor.
The region experiences heavy snowfall, so the roof membrane was designed with a strong hardwood that can withstand falling branches, a common occurrence in the winter.
The home is oriented in relation to the movement of the sun, and walls of windows let daylight stream in, while framing the local "art"—the native robles, coigües and raulis trees of southern Chile.
"Connecting with nature stimulates and balances your senses," say the owners, "and this house achieves that aim."
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