5 February 2013

Max Núñez Arquitectos – Chile’s modern architectural maestros

Chile is a prosperous South American nation and – an interesting fact – the world’s longest country (almost 2700 miles north to south). Aesthetically ensconced as I am in my office in The Bakery in Belfast, Chile feels a million miles away, a far removed nation on the other side of the world. Yet, Chile is a country towards which I feel a strong emotional pull. It is in part due to its past political upheavals and struggles, its famous figures and revolutionaries, something to which I can relate as an Irishman. Yet more pragmatically, my pull towards Chile is based on my liking for Chilean wine – arguably some of the finest in the world – and most notably, Chile’s modern architecture.

Camino A Farellones

Camino A Farellones pool

Images (above and at top): Camino A Farellones, Las Condes, Santiago, Chile. Completed January 2006.

I would argue that Chile’s modern residential architecture is in many ways unrivalled, anywhere. Chilean architects – arquitectos – must consider several pertinent factors in their work, not least of which include the landscape and geology of an earthquake prone territory. From The Andes to The Pacific to the Atacama Desert, Chile’s topography is a challenge for even the most confident of architects. Additionally, architects need to factor a number of contexts within their work, particularly environmental and cultural. Taken together, each of these factors provide fertile grounding for modern dwellings that are world-class in their design and execution.

Los Molles

Los Molles, Cachagua, V Region, Chile. Completed December 2009.

In an interview with Dwell about Chile’s capital, Santiago, architect Sebastián Irarrázaval advocated: “The Chileans associate modernism with prestige, with being forward-looking.” He commented: “It shows the world that Chile is part of a global trend. It’s a way of saying we are not isolated, because Chile had been isolated for so long.” He proposed: “Good buildings that are fresh and original can be born here [in Chile].”

Cerro Tacna

Cerro Tacna, Maitencillo, V Region, Chile. Completed December 2007.

With a focus on that latter sentiment, I was captivated by images of the ‘10 x 10’ house designed by Chilean architects, Max Núñez and Nicolás del Rio. ’10 x 10′ was awarded Best New Private House in the Wallpaper* Design Awards 2013. Built in Las Condes, Santiago, it derives its name from the 10 x 10 metre central courtyard around which the house is framed.

10 X 10 structure

10 X 10 night

10 X 10 glass

Images: 10 x 10, Las Condes, Santiago, Chile. Completed December 2010.

Max Núñez is a Chilean architect whose architectural practice – Max Núñez Arquitectos – epitomises that genre of Chilean modern architecture by which I am enthralled. Looking through the studio’s catalogue of work, both built projects and those in progress, I experience an overwhelming sensation of wonderment. Somewhat difficult to articulate, I have a longing to be physically present in the spaces that are depicted, to experience their personality and character, to feel the context in which they have been imagined and discover the environment in which they have been constructed. But as I have already expressed, Belfast is a long way from Chile, and so I am left to ruminate, imagine and form my own evocative pictures of Max Núñez Arquitectos’ work.

Los Canteros day

Los Canteros night

Images: Los Canteros, Farellones, Chile. Completed June 2008.

Perfectly befitting the ethos of Walnut Grey Design, Max Núñez Arquitectos make use of a modern palette of materials, including concrete, steel, glass, stone and wood. Projects work with varying types of terrain and nature’s elements, and help to frame vistas from the perspective of an individual on the inside looking out – over a courtyard, mountains, valleys, the city and the ocean. Each built project makes a powerful statement, as a combination of the materials used, an expression of design, a functional objective and a sense of being.

Chalet C7

Chalet C7 snow

Images: Chalet C7, Portillo, Chile. Completed June 2008.

Max Núñez Arquitectos is a relatively young studio that has already amassed an enviable volume of architectural pearls. Their brilliance can be seen in the translation of projects, from design to build, working across a diversity of landscapes, using modern materials to create elegant and inspiring structures and spaces. They are both present and future, deserving of the Wallpaper* accolade and part of an admirable lineage of Chile’s modern architectural maestros.

Projects in progress:


Cienpies, Riñinahue, Lago Ranco, Chile.

400 Columns

400 Columns, Chicureo, Santiago, Chile.


Leonera, Farellones, Las Condes, Chile.

What’s your view on this style of architecture?

All images © Max Núñez Arquitectos.

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