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Sumit Singhal
Sumit Singhal
Sumit Singhal loves modern architecture. He comes from a family of builders who have built more than 20 projects in the last ten years near Delhi in India. He has recently started writing about the architectural projects that catch his imagination.

Alma Hotel Residence Winning Proposal in Atacama, Northern Chile by Kouvo & Partanen

February 5th, 2012 by Sumit Singhal

Article source: Kouvo & Partanen

The Finnish Architectural Office Kouvo & Partanen has won an international design and tender competition for the new Hotel Residence for the researches of ALMA, the Atacama Large Millimeter/sub-millimeter Array, in the desert of Atacama in Northern Chile.

Towards the main building

  • Architects: Kouvo & Partanen
  • Project: Alma Hotel Residence Winning Proposal
  • Location: Atacama, Northern Chile

Main hall

The competition was arranged as an invited competition for representatives of appr. 10 countries by ESO, The European Southern Observatory. The aim of the competition was to find the best solution on a fixed design fee and construction price for the building that offers the astronomers, engineers, and other staff working at the observatory accommodation, restaurant and office services and recreational spaces.


ALMA is one of the largest ground-based astronomy projects of the next decade. ALMA is a global partnership between Europe, North America (USA and Canada) and East Asia (Taiwan and Japan), in cooperation with the Republic of Chile. At the altitude of 5000 metres on the Chajnantor plateau ALMA telescope consisting 66 radio antennas will be at one of the highest altitudes in the world. The Research Centre, where the new Hotel Residence will be located, is at 2900 above sea level. The building complex comprises of dormitories providing 120 accommodation rooms, and of the main building that locates common rooms such as restaurants, offices and recreational areas. The total floor area is about 5 900m.


The complex has been integrated into the surrounding landscape by means of scale and local materials and colours. The main features of the scenery are the vibrant colours and sweeping horizontal views of the Atacama Desert, the snow capped Andean mountains, the active volcanos and the Salar of Atacama salt lake and Cordillera de Domeyko mountains in the west. The Atacama Desert is one of the most arid places in the World.


The building is designed as a curving terraced structure following the natural slope of the landscape and forming sheltered inner courtyards. The materials are local stones, copper, volcanic rock and weatherproof steel. The solar aspects have been addressed by designing various shading structures made of local materials and canvas canopies to shelter from high ultraviolet radiation.


The accommodation rooms are located in separate dormitories, that have interior and exterior connections to the main building along the terraces. The design also allows 24h workshifts and disabilities. All the spaces have direct outdoor accesses via courtyards or balconies.

South facade

The heart of the main building is the restaurant, lounge and meeting rooms that have open vistas westwards to the salt lake and desert scenery. The reception and the offices, and recreational spaces such as the spa and swimming pools are located in the lower level. The roof of the main building is an inclined landscaped terrace; the highest point being an observation plateau with an amateur telescope. The roof terrace has open views to all directions – The Andes, the volcanos Liancabur and Lascar and The Atacama Desert.

West facade

The complex is design according to strict ecological principles. The structural design is demanding due to big and rapid thermal changes, sand storms and earthquakes. Energy efficiency is highly important also because of the remote location – therefore heat and cooling circulation, reusable water consumption systems and solar energy are key issues in the technical design. Thermal insulation and landscaped roofing support the low energy consumption aims.



The designing of the complex has started in the beginning of 2012 and the construction is expected to be completed in 2014.
Attached some competiton entry drawings:

– Exterior view: The main building with the common rooms for the Observatory workers and visitors in the front and the dormitories with accommodation rooms in the back. The scenery shows The Andes and some volcanos.
– Site plan: The new Hotel Residence complex is terraced into the natural slope. The camp area also has The Observatory research and workspaces and construction areas for antennas under construction or repair.
– Interior view: The main building restaurant and multifunctional spaces opening towards The Salar de Atacama salt lake and The Atacama Desert.


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Categories: Hotel, Mixed use

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