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Cape Horn Sub-Antarctic Center

Ennead Architects

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Project Name

Cape Horn Sub-Antarctic Center


Chilean Regional Government


  • Design Partner: Richard Olcott, FAIA
  • Management Partner: Kevin McClurkan, AIA
  • Project Designer: Zach Olczak
  • Team: Josh Broadway and Michael Caton, AIA

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Project Description

FROM THE ARCHITECT (July 8, 2015):

As a result of a public competition, the Chilean Regional Government has awarded the design of the Cape Horn Sub-Antarctic Center to the local architect Cristian Sanhueza (Temuco, Chile) in association with Cristian Ostertag (Santiago, Chile) and Ennead Architects (New York, USA) acting as the lead designer. The owners of the Cape Horn Sub-Antarctic Center project are the University of Magallanes, the Institute of Ecology and Biodiversity and the Omora Foundation in Chile, with academic collaboration of the University of North Texas in the United States.

The Cape Horn Sub-Antarctic Center is part of the Biocultural Research and Conservation Program led by Dr. Ricardo Rozzi, Professor at the University of North Texas, the Universidad de Magallanes and the Institute of Ecology and Biodiversity. The Center provides a home for the program’s interdisciplinary, socio-ecological research programs, bringing together scientists, intellectuals, artists, indigenous people and the local community to exchange knowledge related to biological and cultural conservation and providing a forum for the convergence of environmental philosophy and science.

The site for the Cape Horn Sub-Antarctic Center faces the Beagle Channel in Puerto Williams, a town on Navarino Island in the Chilean Sub-Antarctic Province that is defined by its cultural heritage and lies within the UNESCO Cape Horn Biosphere Reserve. The Center is comprised of three Sub-Antarctic Center Programs: Education, Sustainable Tourism and Sub-Antarctic Transdisciplinary Research, each housed in its own pavilion along a primary axis that is oriented for optimum solar exposure and protection from the harsh climate. The Southernmost pavilion houses the educational spaces for sustainable tourism and biocultural conservation, including classrooms, a library and study spaces. The middle pavilion contains administration offices, a multipurpose lecture hall and café, and the northernmost pavilion contains an exhibition space, research and laboratory facilities for transdisciplinary research and two apartments for visiting researchers.

Each pavilion is connected by a continuous, transparent public hall that leverages the natural topography of the site by providing access to outdoor classroom environments and the spectacular views of the Beagle Channel, Darwin Mountain Range and Tierra del Fuego. Habitable green roofs provide living classrooms, extend the wildlife habitat potential, provide storm water management for the site and assist in the collection and storage of rainwater for re-use while passive design strategies, such as solar exposure calibration and thermal mass, create comfortable indoor environments.

In concert with the ethos of the Cape Horn Sub-Antarctic Center, the project is designed to integrate with the local context and landscape. In reference to the red hues of the flora, existing infrastructure and maritime vessels, the Center’s design aims to capture the vivid character of the landscape while providing a sense of permanence and minimal maintenance over its life-cycle.  In addition, the project aims to make the smallest environmental footprint, both in terms of natural systems on site, but also with respect to critical common resources such as electricity and potable water. The site offers great potential for renewable energy strategies that will supply the new Cape Horn Research Center as well as the greater Puerto Williams community in times of greater demand and for future resiliency.

The Ennead design team is led by design partner Richard Olcott and management partner Kevin McClurkan. Anticipated completion is 2017.
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