Avenida Italia Shop
Alejandro Valdes / Cristobal Amunategul
Alejandro Valdés / Amunátegui Valdés architects Cristóbal Amunátegui/Amunátegui Valdés architects
Sebastián Zarhi (Project Architect) Estudio Par (Lighting Design) Secco Constructora ltda (Construction Company)
Avenida Italia Shop was organized around a series of architectural references. Whereas the façade draws from some of Loos’ densely composed commercial building elevations, the shop itself celebrates the still lively galleries and passages located in the neighboring downtown of Santiago. Here, the narrowness of the plot is emphasized through a set of three freestanding columns supporting a 21m long double-vaulted ceiling. These elements enhance the already pronounced perspective of the site, which at the back features a small tower with facilities—a reenactment of so many self-referential architectural experiments of the 1970s—, and a patio mediating between these two interiors. If the shop is long, narrow, and evenly-lit, the walls enclosing the backyard are tall and dark, amounting for a more dramatic "room" whose light changes with the hours of the day. Considered as a whole, Avenida Italia Shop is the addition of four different architectural artifacts—the Loosian façade, the passage-like interior, the room-like backyard, and the self-referential tower.
The commission for Avenida Italia Shop established that a retail space should be designed and built in a plot 34m long, with a ranging width of 4m to 2m. The pre-existent construction—a deteriorated one-story house built in the 1940s—was demolished to favor a free plan suited to the new commercial role of the site. No specific details were given relative to the function of the building, except for the fact that the new structure should reach the full constructibility of the plot. In addition, the extremely low budget had to be put in the service of formal invention rather than material exuberance.
Avenida Italia Shop currently serves as a furniture shop. The items have been displayed throughout the interior-corridor as free-standing pieces, not unlike the commercial passages we had in mind while designing the interior. The translucent ceiling, which was conceived as a continuous "lamp" to evenly illuminate the interior, seems to function well as it provides an overall atmosphere that emphasizes the interplay between furniture pieces and architectural elements. The backyard acts as a magnet for visitors to use the totality of the site—drinks are served there, multiplying the uses of the plot.