BY SARAH FISTER GALE
A project team transforms a concrete monolith with a blast of color.
PHOTO COURTESY OF PEDRO MUTIS JOHNSON
The 1970s-era Los Heroes building in Santiago, Chile needed a makeover—but there wasn't a lot of money or time.
The building was home to the offices of Caja de Compensación Los Heroes, a private non-profit institution that administers social security funds to retired workers.
“For us, the biggest challenge of the project was to create a new vision of an old building on a limited layout and build a new image for this institution,” says Santiago Raby, the primary architect for the project and principal of Murtinho+Raby Architects in Santiago.
The vision for the retrofit was to make over the concrete monolith into a building that radiated light, color and transparency. Rather than simply adding more windows, though, the team had an inspiration.
A GIANT GUMBALL MACHINE
Instead of having the façade blend into the building, Mr. Raby's team chose a collection of colorful panels with ultraviolet filters in vibrant shades of orange, red, blue and yellow. The result is a building that sparkles in the sunlight like a giant gumball machine during the day and glows at night thanks to a series of well-placed spotlights.
Inside, the panels set a colorful backdrop and reflect tinted light off of glass tabletops and reflective surfaces. And the color scheme is reinforced with bright carpeting and other decorative elements.
“The main concept of Los Heroes institution is to enjoy life, which we interpret through a colorful façade,” he says. “It creates a special atmosphere to work in and represents the project identity.”
The total cost to cover the building
“We thought that the best option was to surround the old structure with a second skin of glass, covering the most exposed and urban facades,” Mr. Raby says. “The idea was to generate a thickness between the inner and private spaces and the urban and public space.”
The space between the windows and the façade would also make the building more environmentally friendly by creating a pocket that ventilates the warm air and shields the offices from glare and urban noise.
The cost of the panels per square meter
REDUCE, REUSE, RECYCLE
“Low cost was a sustainable attribute of this project because the entire principal structure of the old building was recovered,” Mr. Raby says. “We think that this kind of project is an important strategy to recycle the city, and, as a consequence, to build a sustainable urban development.”