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ARQ (Santiago)

versión On-line ISSN 0717-6996

ARQ (Santiago)  no.91 Santiago dic. 2015 


Cabaña Lanalhue (Less than Zero)
Contulmo, Chile | 2014 - 2015


Juan Pablo Corvalán*(1)

* Professor, Universidad Finis Terrae, Santiago, Chile.


In this small summer house, completely built in an analogous way, the hand-drawn grid-sheet schemes replaced technical drawings and the conversation between architect and builder made specifications unnecessary, demonstrating that the common language of vernacular construction allows us to rethink current production processes in architecture.

Palabras clave: wood, house, barn, analogous, minimal.


Reference images taken from the context
© Juan Pablo Corvalán

“Nothing unusual”, was the premise for designing this cabin located on the banks of Lake Lanalhue. Realized in a completely analogous way, its execution depended mainly on one person and his empiric experience.

The project was defined by assuming the conventions, material availability, and feasibility of construction in the place including felling the non-native trees in the site. In general, products from the general market available in the nearby town were used only for technical aspects.

Project’s plan. Scale: see drawing

Plan (up) and section (down). Not scaled.

Cross-section. Not scaled.

Isometric and side doors details. Not scaled.

Instead of specifying a design, the concrete construction possibilities were agreed upon with a local builder (informal contractor), opting for a small barn-like dwelling. This resulted in an archetypal extruded section that questions the existence of an architectural design, obeying rather the continuity of a local common building protocol.

The distribution of the house is organized around a central space designed to contain daily activities and leaving service areas and bedrooms at the sides. The compact volume, like an archetypal barn, allowed for a complete interior height that generated attics over the bedrooms. A terrace runs along the length of the volume towards the lake that generates a complimentary circulation that avoids the cul de sac in smaller areas, which are literally opened towards the view.

Exterior view
© Juan Pablo Corvalán

Interior and corridor views
© Juan Pablo Corvalán

The wood structure is defined by a section of trusses, columns, and frames, and is exposed along one of the interior faces and offset from the facade line to allow for a ribbon window oriented towards the sun and a continuous shelf. The materiality optimized everything –from the use of the wood from the center of the trunk for structural elements to the bark in the totality of the exterior cladding as a ventilated envelope– with the exception of the standard, double-glazed windows and the pre-painted black zinc roof.

By shedding theoretical morphological prejudices and taking pragmatic possibilities to the extreme, this exercise erased authorship and replaced it for a common language that provides a new reading for the typical wood dwellings in the south of Chile.

«But this road doesn’t go anywhere,» I told him.
«That doesn’t matter.»
«What does?» I asked, after a little while.
«Just that we’re on it, dude,» he said.
(Ellis, 1985)

Exterior view
© Juan Pablo Corvalán

Architect: Juan Pablo Corvalán, Susuka / Location: Lago Lanalhue, Las Quilas, Contulmo, Chile / Building contractor: Valentín Puente / Materials: madera / Cost: USD$260 / m² / Built area: 88 m² / Superficie terreno: 10.000 m² / Año de ProyectO: 2014 - 2015 / Año de construcción: 2014 - 2015.



ELLIS, Bret Easton. Less Than Zero. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1985.

ELLIS, Bret Easton. Less Than Zero. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1985.

1. Juan Pablo Corvalán | Architect, Ecole d’Ingénieurs de Genève, Switzerland (1996). Master of excellence in architecture, Berlage Insitute, Rotterdam, The Netherlands (2002). Candidate to the doctoral degree in geography, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile. Founder member of the architecture research group Supersudaca. He is part of the editorial board of Materia magazine. He currently works as architecture degree professor at the Universidad Finis Terrae, Santiago, Chile.

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