The UC Anacleto Angelini Innovation Center, located in the Chilean capital, is an architectural masterpiece designed by Alejandro Aravena that stands immortal in time amidst the contemporary glass curtain wall context of Santiago. The center is located at the San Joaquin Campus of the Universidad Católica de Chile (UC). 

With the idea of converging various enterprises and businesses, academics, researchers, and cutting-edge university knowledge, the Angelini Group 2011 donated the necessary funds to develop a center fostering this concurrence. The center aims to contribute to the process of transferring expertise, discovering economic possibilities, adding value to existing resources, and registering patents to increase the country’s competitiveness and, therefore, growth. 

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Innocation Centre UC in the contemporary context of Santiago_©Cristobal Palma


Design Planning

In creating this striking structure, the designers of Elemental were involved in a meticulous analysis of the site and its surrounding context. Aravena’s design philosophy focused on creating a sturdy connection between the building and its environment with sustainable design solutions. The center is strategically positioned to enhance its relationship with adjacent buildings, the existing campus, and the natural landscape. 

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Massive exterior of Innovation Centre UC_©Nico Saieh

This 14-storey building has a facade of massive stacked blocks of concrete, forming huge windows of three-story heights. The typical curtain wall building layout is restored by placing the structure and shafts around the perimeter of the building and concentrating openings in specific locations in the form of elevated squares. The form of the building has deep, lofty porches between the façades, as well as projecting and removing blocks that create a variety in the pattern. 

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Elevated Squares of Innovation Centre UC _©Felipe Díaz Contardo

The outside is bulkier and opaque, whereas the inside is permeable, classified, and transparent. The explicit heart of the building, the atrium has elevators that provide vertical circulation. People can move vertically in an elevator-equipped atrium and observe what others are doing. 

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The heart of Innovation Centre UC_©Nico Saieh
Design solutions

The client demanded a glass curtain wall, like others for the center. However, considering the climate of Santiago and the severe greenhouse effect in the interiors, Alejandro Aravena took a critical standpoint of not having a glass facade, but rather a contemporary look bounded by timelessness. To have a form that does not face stylistic obsolescence, designers considered going for a strict geometry and robust monolithic material. In pursuit of building form, the concept categorized into three main aspects: Use, Environment, and Character. 

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Design Thinking_©Elemental (Alejandro Aravena)

Aravena focused on creating open and collaborative spaces to foster collaboration and innovation. The design features huge open-floor plans, multifunctional rooms, and transparent walls to stimulate user engagement and information exchange.

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Ground Floor Plan_©Elemental (Alejandro Aravena)

The use of the building accommodates spaces with at least four types of work: a pattern of formal and informal work interspersed with individual and group interactions. Many meeting places formed throughout the building, from a bench in the elevator lobby to a transparent atrium that gives a sneak a peek at what others are doing while moving vertically.

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innovation Centre UC_©Felipe Díaz Contardo
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Formal, Informal, Individual and collective setting_©Nico Saieh
Design philosophy

Innovation Center UC is designed with social and environmental responsibility at its core. Aravena believes that architecture should be a tool for solving societal challenges. The approach reflects the sustainable and inclusive design of the center, which prioritizes user requirements while minimising environmental effect of the center. 


Various materials have been used in the construction of this center to improve functionality and aesthetics. Reinforced concrete is predominantly employed in the construction and exterior of buildings to achieve a sustainable and contemporary-style building that will stand the test of time. Large glass panels in recessed fenestrations allows indirect natural light to enter interior spaces. Various other materials, such as steel, cross-laminated timber (CLT), and aluminum, cohesively form a contemporary look.

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Interiors of innovation Centre UC_©Felipe Díaz Contardo


The studio Elemental (Alejandro Aravena) uses common sense to provide environmentally sustainable design solutions. They placed the building mass on the exterior, creating opacity and providing an energetically efficient façade. It prevents intense, bright light from entering the interior workspaces, which typically have shades and curtains. 

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Elevations of innovation Centre UC_© Elemental (Alejandro Aravena)

Innovation Center UC incorporates passive design strategies, like natural ventilation and daylighting. The façade with recessed openings maximizes daylight penetration, provides cross-ventilation, and minimizes solar heat gain, eventually reducing the need for artificial lighting and cooling. By doing this, the air conditioning energy usage reduced from 120 kW/m2/year (the consumption of a typical glass tower in Santiago) to 45 kW/m2/year.

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Wall section of innovation Centre UC_© Elemental (Alejandro Aravena)
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Sections of innovation Centre UC_© Elemental (Alejandro Aravena)
Sections of innovation Centre UC_© Elemental (Alejandro Aravena)


The Innovation Center UC Anacleto Angelini is an exemplary case study of contemporary innovative design and sustainability in architectural practice. The vision of Alejandro Aravena of creating socially and environmentally responsible buildings showcases a holistic approach to sustainable and inclusive architecture. This project serves as an illustration of future projects, illustrating how innovation, aesthetics, and sustainability can thrive together.


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  • Gallery of innovation center UC – anacleto angelini / Alejandro Aravena: Elemental – 20 (no date) ArchDaily. Available at: 
  • designboom | architecture & design magazine. (2014). elemental casts concrete innovation center in chile around open core. [online] Available at:
  • Divisare. (n.d.). ELEMENTAL – Alejandro Aravena, Nico Saieh · Innovation Center UC – Anacleto Angelini. [online] Available at:

A Postgraduate student of Architecture, developing an ability of Design led through Research. A perceptive observer who strives to get inspired and, in doing so, become one. Always intrigued by the harmonious relationships between people and space and the juxtaposition of the tangible and intangible in architecture.