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Office and shop in Santiago by Alberto Mozó Studio

This bespoke building can be dismantled and moved, a concept the designers call ‘transivity’

AR_EA 2008 prize winner

Occupied by two old houses which could have been demolished, the site for this new computer company building in Santiago, Chile, was zoned under local planning regulations for a 12-storey replacement building. There were also financial incentives to build higher rather than lower (related to depreciation accountancy rules).

Instead, the computer company client and its architect opted to refurbish the existing dwellings and to add a three-storey office and retail building. Unusually, this has been designed so it can be dismantled and moved at a later stage. This strategy is essentially environmental: if it is necessary to carry out a more intensive development of the site at some future stage, the prefabricated parts of the building can be reused in a reassembly at an alternative location. This would minimise the environmental/energy costs usually associated with demolition and rebuilding. The architect calls this concept ‘transitivity’.

SITE_PLAN

Site plan

Timber from renewable sources (Chilean forests) is the fundamental construction element, with laminated beams deployed using a standard dimension (90 x 342mm) related to cutting efficiency of whole trees by the Chilean ‘Arauco’ industry; but while standardisation may be the mainspring for the design, the resulting architecture has a style and character far removed from the duller aesthetic often associated with prefabricated timber architecture.

The judges were impressed by the quality and intensity of thought devoted to a relatively modest project; everything from the spiral staircase to the fixing of the beams had contributed to an architecture of character, both site and region-specific, but devoid of cliché. As the images suggest, the high-tech nature of computer-related products sits well with natural materials. The angled external structure, creating attractive shaded facades, suggests that this is in some way a building on the move, as indeed it might be.

Office and shop, Santiago, Chile

Architect: Alberto Mozó Studio, Santiago

Project team: Alberto Mozó Leverington, Francisca Cifuentes, Mauricio Leal, Luis Fernández

Photographs: Cristobal Palma

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