The remote fishing village of Caleta El Sauce has less than a hundred residents. As members of the El Salado Cooperative, they are dedicated to extracting and processing various types of algae. The village is located in the IV Region of Chile, north of the National Park Fray Jorge and several hours west of the nearest urban center, Ovalle. Due to its distance and low economic status, the people in Caleta El Sauce only have access to medical care once a month from a visiting doctor.
In order to support the families of Caleta El Sauce and receive visiting medical staff, architects at SAA (Study of Architecture and Territory) came up with a design for a small medical facility that runs on renewable energy. The rural health clinic was constructed with photovoltaic panels to power lighting and charge equipment. It also has a water tank, drain and small storage space. Self-sufficiency is important for the off-grid location, given the scarcity of potable water and difficulty of transporting resources to the location.
Architects Sergio Araneda and Cristobal Vial worked with contributors Diego Alvarellos and Carolina Arecheta to make a structure that could be transported to the village and assembled on-site. “Site layout was determined in relation to achieving a connection with the sea, while also generating connectivity with existing homes, but which, given its scale, was capable of projecting itself toward the coast as just another element of the landscape,” the architects explained. The site was constructed in just one week.
Built to be elevated from the ground, the 25-square-meter structure is composed of two main areas, connected at an angle. Half of the build is dedicated to a waiting room and medical room, and is enclosed except for a few small square windows, to respect privacy. The other half of the building is almost entirely exposed, functioning as a terrace. Many homes and buildings in this region are purposely constructed to be exposed, given it almost never rains in the temperate climate and the vast majority of days can comfortably be spent outside.
Other projects of the SAA include the Environmental Restitution Park and National Botanic Garden in Viña del Mar, and Environmental Interpretation Infrastructures at the Rio Simpson National Reserve. Founding architect of SAA, Sergio Araneda Maiz, is a collaborating member of Kauyeken, a non-profit organization “aimed at preserving and integrating the Chilean natural and cultural heritage in its different territories and tangible and intangible expressions”. The Kauyeken work by supporting national parks and educating on the importance of preserving biodiversity.