The project is the result of a competition for the revision of the new Diego Portales University Huechuraba Campus masterplan, and the definition of a project for its first phase, the School of Economics and Business of the University.
The site is located at the foot of San Cristobal hill, sloping and slightly raised above the Huechuraba valley. With the location of the new campus, the School seeks to build a strong link between its academic development and the professional reality, as it is at one of the most important business centers in the city.
For the architecture, this presented the challenge of asserting a university identity in an environment governed by very different rules. Amid buildings that are mostly for office rental, glass boxes lacking a clear identity and designed with a short term logic, we wanted to build a contrast, a structure with weight that speaks of permanence and stability, to accompany the university in its long-range commitment and transcendence. The density of the volumes, the concrete that lasts and ages, walls to be covered with vines showing the passing of the seasons, a park that matures in years and stone squares, combine to consolidate over time.
In addition, the project seeks to build a connection beyond its neighbors, with its geographic environment. It takes advantage of the slope to render the courtyards dominant over the territory, and builds terraces at different heights, as well as a roof garden, that connects the everyday life of the project with the distant geography, San Cristobal hill, and Huechuraba valley. They are places that link leisure time with the surrounding landscape.
The proposed masterplan combines four elements for the construction of the project defining a cut in the direction of the slope. The project of the school, as a first stage and a section of the total, includes these four elements, advancing their definition:
1. A base from a linear succession of horizontal planes that build the courtyards with intensive use, as balconies over the Huechuraba landscape, which house the public programs of the university. In the first stage the base is defined on three squares at different levels, the access square that connects the two buildings of the school, the undergraduate square that connects to future phases, and the graduate square that is directly related to the park. Under these squares, the base houses a cafeteria, the school library and the main auditorium of the university.
2. A large 8-level continuous bar, with neutral architecture, acts as a backdrop against the hill and houses the system of regular classrooms, which require more modular flexibility. For the School of Economics, this building houses undergraduate classrooms which are organized from an exterior corridor overlooking the courtyards of the project, and linked to a series of raised terraces that cross the building with more than one height, serving as spatial relief at the higher levels.
3. On the base, and in front of the bar, the masterplan proposes a series of unique buildings that dialogue with the neutrality of the bar, establishing a scenic figure-ground relationship. These unique buildings give a certain rhythm and frame the landscape from the courtyards. They also contain the most iconic programs of each unit, and their diversity gives identity to each part of the campus. At this early stage it houses graduate classrooms and academic offices. The building develops based on a spiral configuration, which links the inclined graduate rooms at half levels, and offices on its upper floors, which organize their circulation around a central light void. Its base is released, leaving a large space that connects and articulates the top program of the building, the hard courtyards, the park, and the territory.
4. Finally, a park is defined on the lower area of the site that is intertwined with the base. It builds a safe distance with the existing urban area, and offers an extensive sports program.
The project is part of a strong desire of the university to build environmentally sustainable infrastructure. The project is designed, from the architecture , landscape, and facilities, in terms of savings in energy and water, minimizing its impact on the environment, and high standards of comfort for its occupants. The building seeks to reduce solar impact on the envelope: the exterior graduate walls are constructed with highly controlled openings, just enough for good lighting and views, and a central void for indirect light, around which the circulation is laid out. Furthermore, we propose a system of planters on the the north and west facades, to grow deciduous vines that provide shade and humidity during the hot months, and a roof garden that acts as a buffer for thermal insulation. In the undergraduate building, the east facade is constructed from a concrete wall clad in decorated glass reflecting the hill and filtering light into the classrooms through controlled openings. To the west we design a large vertical concrete lattice, with perennial vegetation planters, shading the corridor and classrooms. Finally, we seek to exploit the breeze from the west in the hot months, to generate cross ventilation in the classroom building and upward movement of air in the central void of the graduate building.