top of page

2014 MCHAP

Adolfo Ibanez University Postgraduate Building

José Cruz Ovalle

Santiago, Chile

March 2007


José Cruz Ovalle


Hernán Cruz Somavía (Associated architect) Ana Turell Sánchez Calvo (Associated architect) Juan Purcell Mena (Associated architect)


Gonzalo Zarraonandía


Roland Halbe Juan Purcell Mena


The project proposes to tackle the slope, an ascending ridge, as the real dimension of the place, which means that the actual building should not be deployed along the contour lines. Therefore in the design of the building a shape was sought which would give the necessary feeling of space for ascending and descending the slope – bearing in mind that architecture is not conceived as an act of dominating nature, owing to its ability to turn the unfavorable into favorable. A central idea in the design was the conception of the inner space as a void where it is possible to walk lengthways and widthways through the whole height of this internal space, while at the same time experiencing its light-filled floating void – unlike, for instance, in a Gothic cathedral that allows observation only from below, from the ground. This void is “alive” not only thanks to inhabitants, but by the natural light -real presence of nature-, which is brought into the building in different forms and from different directions, so that its continuous changing nature comes into its own. Also following the principle of “cross fertilization”, the project understands the university not only from the point of view of the aula, the laboratory, the library or the cafeteria, but above all from that which connects them and allows for the connection of one another. In this way, the proposal was that in inhabiting the university, the true act of "being" is circulation, which, with its pauses and halts, sustains the relationship between academic work and contemplation. In order to allow freedom to inhabit, hence free circulation, the project contemplated an array of promenades of multiples ways to walk from A to B: a continuity which is achieved through ramps connecting different levels providing human scale proximity. ​


The location of this university, above the city of Santiago, at the foothills of the Andes, establishes the first architectural statement of this work, in that it sets it within a dimension inherent to our American continent: crucially positioned in the vastness of nature. This statement is congruent to this placement, not simply as a plot of land or a site, but as extension, a magnitude innate to our country and our continent. This location lay before the extension, not enclosed by the urban space, provides the work with a certain freedom when it comes to its limits. The post-graduate building was conceived as part of the second stage of the Adolfo Ibañez University campus project (120 hectare plot), the first stage being the building for pre-graduate studies completed in 2002. The building is located at over 1.000 meters altitude, on a curved ridge ascending between two ravines overlooking to horizons: the mountains to the east and the central valley to the west. The building follows the principle of “crossed fertilization”. This is the reason why the different college faculties are not separated from each other, quite the opposite; the space is shared by students, academics and staff from different schools. The Adolfo Ibañez University conceives university life as inseparable from place; therefore, architecture and nature are crucial to sustain it. In this way, to contemplate the sunrise behind the Andes, its daily route above the sky and setting in the west, lighting up the valley, are all facts that give rhythm to life in this template climate that allows inhabiting outdoor spaces. The way one accesses the building is a further example of this: 250 meters separates the car park from the building, a pedestrian path in which step by step one ascends the slope coming into the silence of the place.


The spatial deployment solution provides several options for circulating within the building. One can choose one’s own route so that moving from one place to another becomes a pleasant promenade, walking around –through the inner or the exterior space-, calmly, without hindrance, in a space that offers an array of views while strolling. Sometimes one moves from a small space into a more spacious one, and at other times from a semi-dark one to a brightly-lit one. This continuous and ever changing space with its variety of shadows, turns and bends, constructs consecutive spatial series which awaken new expectations and open up new views at each step. The building follows the route of the northern ravine and its sunny terraces from one level to the next, step by step, tree by tree. A rhythm is provided by a number of shade-providing cantilevered projections and their terraces that extend through the concavities of the building frame to the south ravine, thus receiving the fresh wind during the spring and summer. The white appears to respond to this unfolding and open space, where there is no front or back and where one walks from enclosed interior spaces to open exterior ones. The white is perceived not as a color but as a quality able to receive the quivering shadows of the foliage, leading the way from the semi-dark to the illuminated. The issue here is to create certain neutrality that allows for the reception of the continuously changing endless hues of natural light and nuances of shadows, in turn reflecting them into the surroundings, and thus giving lightness to the building mass. In this way, the manner in which the space and light are conceived and modeled is not meant to impose their presence but to achieve the splendor of that lightness that allows a free inhabitation of the building. A professor, at the time dean of the school of Government, said that in the evening, after the end of the lessons, something strange happens because nobody goes from the place, they continue there wandering around until the sun light disappears.

bottom of page