RDR Architectes designs a “compact village” for a sheep farm in Patagonia

The Swiss architectural firm RDR Architects chose corrugated metal to cover a vast agricultural complex in Patagonia where cows and sheep are raised.


Richter Dahl Rocha & Associates (RDR Architects) designed the Estancia Morro Chico ranch in the Argentinian province of Santa Cruz, near the Chilean border.

The project is located in the windswept region of Patagonia, which is shared by the two countries and has a predominantly cold and cloudy climate all year round.

It is common to raise cattle here, but a rewilding effort has been encouraged to restore and rejuvenate the grasslands of Patagonia.

Estancia Morro Chico by RDR Architects
Photograph by Céline Frers

The Lausanne studio constructed a series of buildings and renovated the existing structures of the 27,000 hectare ranch, which is home to 11,000 Merino sheep and 1,500 Hereford and Aberdeen Angus cattle.

The aim was to enable large-scale production of wool, as well as beef and mutton.

Estancia Morro Chico by RDR Architects
Photograph by Javier Agustin Rojas

The new volumes are low slung rectangular designs with walls and roofs covered in corrugated iron to form a uniform aesthetic. They include a depot for storing machines, a guest house and staff quarters.

RDR Architectes has chosen to arrange the buildings in a cluster, like a village, to help create a well-sheltered environment adapted to the climate. A shed for sheep shearing is located further away near the pastures.

Estancia Morro Chico by RDR Architects
Photograph by Javier Agustin Rojas

The buildings are constructed from prefabricated wood and metal, which RDR Architects chose to refer to how pioneers in the area built in the 19th century. The use of materials is also a contemporary reinterpretation of barns and warehouses.

Estancia Morro Chico by RDR Architects
Photograph by Javier Agustin Rojas

“The layout of the complex is based on the model of a compact village, characteristic of the region’s ranches, where utility buildings and accommodation blocks are grouped together to protect themselves from the harsh climate and create comfortable places in the countryside. Patagonian Desert, ”said RDR Architects.

Estancia Morro Chico by RDR Architects

“The general aesthetic of the project was inspired by the traditional architecture of the region, which displayed extreme austerity and almost primitive simplicity, introduced into the immensity of the Patagonian desert,” he said. -he adds.

The project is completed by a house for the family who own the ranch, which includes two L-shaped volumes and a courtyard. A triangular design juts out from the roof line into the sky and is clad in wood. Inside, the ceilings and walls are clad in the same wood as the exteriors and have lots of natural light and gray stone floors.

Estancia Morro Chico by RDR Architects

“The architectural language of each part of the ensemble developed well-defined variations on the hangar theme,” the studio said. “There are simple shapes like the sheep shearing house, and other more complex shapes like the family house.

Photograph by Javier Agustin Rojas

Estancia Morro Chico is equipped with solar panels, wind turbines and a wood-fired boiler that works partly with bottled gas and replaces the old use of charcoal.

The ranch was founded by a Scottish immigrant in the late 1800s who arrived from the southern Chilean city of Punta Arenas via the Falkland Islands, which is now a self-governing British overseas territory.

Estancia Morro Chico by RDR Architects
Photograph by Javier Agustin Rojas

“He played a major role in the famous ‘gran arreo’, in which 5,000 sheep were brought over 2,000 kilometers through the wet pampas to colonize the vast tracts of land the government had granted to the settlers.” , said RDR Architects.

“A century later, the descendants of the same Scottish family are linked to an ambitious project to complete and renovate the site.

Estancia Morro Chico by RDR Architects
Photograph by Céline Frers

Other projects in Patagonia are the Tierra Chiloe Hotel, the Museo Regional de Aysen and the Awasi Hotel by Felipe Assadi, all of which are part of Chile.

The photograph is by Cristobal Palma, unless otherwise stated.


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