Pirihueico house in Chile is designed by Aalejandro Aravena and completed in 2004.

“So be it the force of self construction, the force of common sense or the force of nature, all these forces need to be translated into form. and what the form is modelling and shaping is not cement, bricks, or wood. It is life itself. Design’s power of synthesis is just an attempt to put the innermost core of architecture the force of life.”  – Alejandro Aravena

Pirihueico House by Alejandro Aravena: A volcanic site - Sheet1
Pirihueico House_©https://www.archdaily.com
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Alejandro Aravena_©https://bustler.net/news/tags/riba/384/6809/alejandro-aravena-winner-of-2018-riba-jencks-award

This Chilean Architect is not only the executive director of the firm Elemental S.A. but also the Pritzker Architecture Award winner in 2016. He also held the position of director and curator of the Architecture Section of the 2016 Venice Biennale.

Aravena, who leads the firm Elemental, addresses social issues through his building language and braces the gap in economic inequality. Some of his achievements include Erich Schelling Architecture Medal in 2006, Global Award for Sustainable Architecture in 2008, Venice Biennale of Architecture in 2008. 

Pirihueico House is a response to problem-solving through rustic means. It is a summer/winter house in a remote landscape in the southernmost part of Chile.

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Exterior view of Pirihhueico House_©https://www.archdaily.com/551/pirihueico-house-alejandro-aravena/500ebe1d28ba0d0cc7000171-pirihueico-house-alejandro-aravena-image?next_project=no

It is situated on a volcanic site with 4.000 mm of rain every year, strong winds from the north and east, views towards the lake (east) and the forest (west).

To establish an identity to this house, any priori architectural language related to this volcanic site is erased.  

Design philosophy

The requirements of the client included building the house in the color of shadows, creating an equation taking into account various design aspects which affect the planning, design process. The major challenges included procuring the materials to this remote site, developing a new identity for the building. Owing to the extreme weather conditions, less risks were taken to ensure safety.

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Exterior View_©https://www.archdaily.com/551/pirihueico-house-alejandro-aravena/500ebe3d28ba0d0cc7000179-pirihueico-house-alejandro-aravena-image?next_project=no

The language of vernacularism and sustainable building techniques are evident all over the place. This house was developed on the lines of climate-responsive architecture.

Planning and Design

The spaces are arranged in a linear configuration yet allowing more natural light into each of the spaces.

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First Floor Plan_©https://www.archdaily.com/551/pirihueico-house-alejandro-aravena/500ebe6d28ba0d0cc7000186-pirihueico-house-alejandro-aravena-image?next_project=no

The site being exposed to extreme climatic conditions, the double sloped conventional roof is provided on the second floor in contrast to the first floor which is a dry resistance box to deal with the seismic actions in the ground, moisture, weather. The lower level is sunk into the ground for the same reason. 


Considering the site context, a double sloped conventional roof suits the site best. But slowly the roof of this house is modified owing to extreme winds, capturing magnificent sceneries and to create visual interest.

The wooden frames on the ground floor support the starting points of the roof.

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French Doors creating  seamless view_©https://www.archdaily.com/551/pirihueico-house-alejandro-aravena/500ebe4428ba0d0cc700017b-pirihueico-house-alejandro-aravena-image?next_project=no
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Interior View_©https://www.archdaily.com/551/pirihueico-house-alejandro-aravena/500ebe5b28ba0d0cc7000181-pirihueico-house-alejandro-aravena-image?next_project=no

French doors and windows are used to create a seamless view towards the breath-taking natural setting. These window frames act as arrivals and exits and on the upper level, they function as columns supporting the roof structure.


The earthy material palette consisted of wood and stones which were obtained from the clearance made on site for the house. The darkness of the object retains the original density of the place and is achieved courtesy of stones used on the facade. These materials also merge the building with surroundings rather than dominating. 

Pirihueico House by Alejandro Aravena: A volcanic site - Sheet9
Stone used for the plinth_©https://www.archdaily.com/551/pirihueico-house-alejandro-aravena/500ebe3128ba0d0cc7000176-pirihueico-house-alejandro-aravena-image
Interior View_©https://www.archdaily.com/551/pirihueico-house-alejandro-aravena/500ebe6628ba0d0cc7000184-pirihueico-house-alejandro-aravena-image?next_project=no

The interiors were painted white bringing harmony in the exteriors and interiors.

This building is an ideal example of a rational approach to the requirements.


  1. archporn (2009). Pirehueico House, Pirihueico Lake, Chile, 2004 by Alejandro Aravena. [online] archporn. Available at: https://archporn.wordpress.com/2009/02/21/pirehueico-house-pirihueico-lake-chile-2004-by-alejandro-aravena/ [Accessed 21 Nov. 2021].
  2. issuu.com. (n.d.). Pirihueico House – Alejandro Aravena by ywntknw – Issuu. [online] Available at: https://issuu.com/ywntknw/docs/pirihueico_house_-_alejandro_araven [Accessed 21 Nov. 2021].
  3. Architonic. (n.d.). Pirehueico House by ELEMENTAL | Detached houses. [online] Available at: https://www.architonic.com/en/project/elemental-pirehueico-house/5100411 [Accessed 21 Nov. 2021].
  4. ArchPAPERS. (2015). PIRIHUEICO HOUSE Alejandro Aravena. [online] Available at: https://archpapers.com/pirihueico-house-alejandro-aravena/ [Accessed 21 Nov. 2021].

Manya is an architecture student pursuing her Bachelors and loves to explore, learn and grow.She believes in divergent thinking which made her passionate about Research and writing Architecture. Graphic designing and creating pieces of Art interests her and helps her escape reality.