In the world of design, sustainability can take many forms. It can involve a renewable material. It can mandate buildings that respect the geography of a place. It can come from architecture that favours local materials and building types. Or it can encompass all of the above, as the work of the three design professionals profiled here illustrates so eloquently.
For the architect Cazú Zegers, who opened her office in Santiago, Chile in 1990, sustainability has always been a priority. But for her, it is about more than simply using “green” materials and technologies. “My interest in architecture has to do with local processes, and with the traditions of a place,” she says. And Zegers believes strongly in the connection between poetry and architecture. This philosophy has produced buildings that look completely at home in their surroundings, like the Tierra Patagonia hotel. The sinuous concrete and wood structure, with its curving wooden roof, nestles almost invisibly into its site on the edge of Lake Sarmiento, in the Torres del Paine National Park. Zegers likens its form to that of “an old fossil or prehistoric animal,” adding, “I wanted the hotel to be a ‘thin skin,’ so you could feel the environment.”
For the Casa LLU (House of Rain), which is located in the country’s rainy south, wood wasn’t a practical choice, so Zegers designed a single-story concrete structure clad in Cor-ten steel. With its warm wood-panelled interiors and covered walkways and porches, the house — which is used by four generations of one family — “let the landscape in, but you’re protected,” she explains. Zegers designed the Casa Soplo (Whisper House) as a pavilion that opens to the landscape, with curved glass walls on one side and a planted roof that insulates the interior. Zegers is adding a photovoltaic array to the roof’s existing solar panels, with the aim of becoming “energy-independent.” Zegers keeps her office small by design. “It’s the only way to control the process,” she explains. And her foundation, +1000, is now working with indigenous peoples in southern Chile to create a trail system for sustainable tourism. As Zegers says, “You have to have a spiritual connection to the land.”
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