2022

MCHAP

Morro Chico Ranch

RDR architectes

Santa Cruz, Argentina

January 2019

PRIMARY AUTHOR

Ignacio Dahl Rocha

CONTRIBUTING AUTHOR

Bruno Emmer, Facundo Morando, Susana Barra, Roberto Lombardi, Pablo Peirano, Sofía Vivacqua, Lucas Maschwitz, María Santarelli, Clara Carrera, Agustín Azar, Martina Barra, Santiago Rigoli, Federico Bonessi, Vanik Margossian, Lucía Iglesias, Tomás Perez Amenta, Facundo Burgos, Matías Nola.

CLIENT

Estancia Morro Chico

PHOTOGRAPHER

Cristobal Palma, Javier Agustin Rojas, Celine Frers

OBJECTIVE

The former sheep-shearing shed and its associated buildings, which made up a distinct zone, were restored in a way that retained their original character and are still being used and are a testament to the history of the region.
One of the notable improvements was the introduction of systems to produce clean and renewable energy. This was achieved by the introduction of solar panels and wind turbines, as well as by using a wood-burning boiler using wood from the surrounding forests, with a bottled gas back-up, replacing the former use of charcoal from the neighboring resources of the Río Turbio.
The layout of the complex is based on the model of a compact village, characteristic of the settlements of the region, where the utilitarian buildings and accommodation blocks are grouped for protection against the rigorous climate of the Patagonian Desert. The buildings use industrial metal and wood structural systems, clad with corrugated steel sheeting, in a similar way to the original used by the pioneers of the region and addressing the same problems of logistics and the scarcity of local resources that existed at that time.
The proposed energy concept required all heated buildings, whether new or existing, to be highly insulated. All were then covered with the same corrugated sheets providing a unified aspect to the exteriors of the whole site. The general aesthetics of the project were inspired by the traditional architecture of the region, which demonstrated extreme austerity and an almost primitive simplicity in the immensity of the Patagonian Desert.

CONTEXT

The Morro Chico estancia is located at the southern border of Argentina with Chile. It was founded by a Scottish immigrant who arrived from the Falkland Islands at the end of the 19th century and came into the continent through the Chilean city of Punta Arenas. At the beginning of the last century, he played a major role in the famous “gran arreo”, during which 5,000 sheep were brought more than 2,000 kilometers across the wet pampa to settle the vast expanses of land that the government had granted to the colonists.
A century later, descendants of the same Scottish family initiated this ambitious project aiming to complete and renovate the installations of the site. There were many objectives: to preserve the natural heritage, create sustainable construction, establish the best production of meat and wool, and improve the lives of those who lived and worked there. To achieve this, a master plan for the project was drawn up, and the different stages were built between 2015 and 2019. These included new construction such as a model sheep-shearing shed, a general storage depot, staff accommodation, and the main family house. Most of the existing buildings (except for those in a very poor state) were renovated to fulfill the needs of the residents and guests.

PERFORMANCE

The architectural language of each part of the whole developed well-defined variations on the theme of sheds with corrugated roofs, according to the function and character of the different constructions. There are simple forms like that of the sheep-shearing shed, and other, more complex forms like that of the family house.
Alongside these well-defined variations were contrasts in the materials used, between the warmth of the wood which is predominant inside (and which can be seen outside in differing amounts), and the hardness of the corrugated iron which characterizes the exterior aspect. The largest amount of wood is in the family house, and there is progressively less as the buildings become more utilitarian, until it disappears completely in the sheep-shearing shed.