Espaço Cultural Thiago de Mello
Studio: Ipiña+Nieto Architects
Project: Espaço Cultural Thiago de Mello
Location: Santiago de Chile / Chile
Credit: Pablo Casals Aguirre
Opened in 1907, the James Avenue Pumping Station was built to house the massive pumping equipment required to run a high pressure water system for fighting fires in the downtown area. After 17 attempts to revive the desolate structure, the project was successfully preserved through an innovative financial / building pro forma. By permanently fixing the existing gantry crane system in place, the structure’s initial capacity to move 20,000 lbs across its foundation was repurposed for the construction of an additional floor within the Pumphouse. This leaves the pumps on the main floor free and clear of complicated programming and allows a buildable site to be designed in tandem.
Adapting the strengths of the early 20th century landmark transforms the Pumphouse into a feasible, contemporary mixed-use development that includes rental apartments, commercial use at ground level, and parking. The development scenario allows for the great pump hall – a well-preserved example of the “golden age” of machinery – to be showcased, free on all sides and newly accessible to the public. Capped at 6 storeys in height, the new builds “book-end” the existing structure and subtly support it through deliberately simple, modular forms. Architectural interventions employ a modern industrial aesthetic – a strategy carried from the interior elements through to the exterior additions, serving to both contrast and complement the utilitarian approach and materiality of the original Pumping Station. Each insertion is floated inside of the heritage shell, offset to achieve a light touch against its historic counterpart.