Rusted Zinc Helps This Family Getaway Take On the Elements in Chile

A barn-like residence on the Chilean archipelago of Chiloé honors the rural, coastal landscape.

When a family from Santiago called on architect Baltazar Sánchez to build a weekend residence on rural Chiloé Island, the design objective was simple: to design a home that "seemed like it was always there," says Sánchez. Merging old and new, the unassuming family getaway keeps a low profile on the scenic coast.

Bordered by water and gently rolling hills, the secluded home withstands constantly changing climate conditions.

In designing the home, "a very important factor was the study of the construction in the area, both in materials and orientation, especially due to the weather," explains architect Baltazar Sánchez. "The conversations with the locals were very important." 

A key directive in the home’s design was that "the materials were all from the island, and all very simple," says Sánchez.

At the project’s onset, the family had modest plans to add a quincho—a simple structure with a fireplace and barbecue prevalent in Southern Chile—to an existing home on the property. Fitting with tradition, the quincho would provide a generous gathering space, offsetting the smaller interior living and dining spaces. As the project evolved, however, the shortcomings of the existing home prompted the clients to change course, ultimately deciding to design an entirely new residence while preserving the existing structure for a guesthouse.

Although the project’s scope grew, the couple was adamant that the design maintain its simplicity and fit within the context of the agrarian landscape. The couple was insistent that the home "look like a barn and not a modern house," recalls Sánchez. "It had to be a work that belonged to the place, and in no case a strange animal of very modern architecture."

Designing to attract the least possible attention, Sánchez ensured that the home respected its environmental and cultural context.

The home is located in Punta Chilen on Chiloé, just south of mainland Chile. The slope of the land and sometimes challenging coastal weather guided the siting of the dwelling. "Due to the topography of the terrain and the humidity of the area, the house was designed on piles detached from the ground," explains Sánchez.

The home is built with minimal disturbance to the landscape, perched on piles which mitigate the slope of the site. 

On the exterior, micro-corrugated zinc sheets protect parts of the house directly exposed to wind and rain, while the sheltered faces are clad in pine wood paneling treated with a special product for humidity.

"The materiality and the look of the house had to have the identity of Chiloé," says Sánchez. Corrugated zinc panels clad the home’s exterior, zinc being the chosen material which "covers 90% of the houses in Southern Chile."

Micro-corrugated zinc sheets were used on the areas most exposed to rain and wind, treated so that the finish was rusty, but not uniformly so. "After many tests I did in my house, I managed to find a technique to oxidize the material and achieve the patina we were looking for," says Sánchez.

The home’s more sheltered faces are clad with humidity-treated pine paneling in a bold, dark hue.

Clerestory windows flank the kitchen and dining volume, maximizing the influx of light, even when the days are short or the weather is limiting. "The light it receives is very even and warm, and makes the interior space of the barbecue evolve along with the exterior," says Sánchez.

Local wood was used throughout the interior, from the recycled floor boards, to the pine paneling on the walls and ceilings, to the locally built furniture crafted from the same pine. "The work was completed with materials and builders from the island, so [the home] is 99% from there," says Sánchez.

From the start, the clients wanted their home to have a "barn look," honoring the agrarian vernacular of the built environment around them. Interior walls and ceilings are clad in local pine, with a paint treatment to remove the yellow from the wood.

As the home’s concept was developed, the dining and kitchen volume was configured first. "The idea is that it can work independently from the rest of the house; it has associated bathrooms and independent access," says Sánchez.

The kitchen’s marble counter was the only thing brought in from Santiago—all other materials were sourced locally.

The large barbecue anchors the quincho, a designated space to cook and host guests.

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Rustic and farmhouse-inspired lighting and personal accents adorn the quincho area.

The layout of the home smartly prioritizes privacy and circulation, while embracing the site’s existing conditions. Sánchez designed the home around a central orchard that the family wished to preserve. Flanked by extra-wide corridors, the circular layout was devised "with the intention that when the weather was bad, the children could play in those places and go around the house, almost like it was a car track," says Sánchez.

The home wraps around an existing orchard, brought to life with the help of landscape designer Sol Correa, who used native plants and vegetables. It was important that "the house and the kitchen coexist with its own garden, and with species from the area," says Sánchez.

In the home's private wing, patios interspersed between the bedrooms act as spatial and sound buffers.

The home is functionally modular, suitable for one person or the whole family. When they travel to the property alone, the clients are able to access just the master suite, while keeping the rest of the home closed off.

The home’s many open-air spaces and windows help connect it to the changing natural forces. "A very important topic in Chiloé is the weather and its sky," reflects Sánchez. "It is said that during the same day, the four seasons of the year pass—so the sky is always a spectacle."

Built from simple materials and quietly fitting into the landscape, the family home is a reflection of its bucolic surroundings.

Floor plan and northern elevation

Related Reading:

This Unusual Structure Melds a Traditional Chilean "Quincho" With a Bauhaus Aesthetic

Two Prefab Prisms Form an A-Frame Retreat in the Chilean Wilderness

Project Credits:

Architect of Record:  Baltazar Sánchez Arquitecto 

Builder/General Contractor: Constructora Corcovado  

Structural Engineer: Patricio Stagno 

 Landscape Design: Sol Correa 

Lighting Design: Baltazar Sanchez Arquitecto

Interior Design: Sol Correa


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