Most affordable homes sacrifice looks and quality for cost, but that’s not the case for this Chilean vacation home. Architect Alejandro Soffia' beautiful compact Polycarbonate Cabin was created on a tight budget of just $365 USD per square meter. Built with exposed, untreated wood and polycarbonate panels, the light-filled “low-tech” home is a cozy escape in the seaside town of Guanaqueros.
Known for his specialization in low cost yet beautiful design, Soffia has experimented with various cost-saving building techniques, including prefabricated design as seen in his SIP Panel House in Santo Domingo, Chile. With the Polycarbonate Cabin, however, the architect stepped away from prefabricated design. “[P]refabrication techniques require some industrial processes, related to commercial markets, that have a limit if you want to go down on the building cost,” said Soffia. “So then I tried working on ‘low tech’ design. In a country like Chile, you usually find precarious contexts were buildings rise. So is easy then to get in touch with local precarious techniques and workforce.”
He applied his “low-tech” approach to the Polycarbonate Cabin and, working with a local carpenter, used local building techniques and materials to minimize costs. Aside from a tight budget, Soffia also faced the challenge of a small and shaded site due to the placement of the built house and a pre-existing 9-square-meter room. To solve this challenge, he built the pre-existing room out into a sun-soaked patio and then added extensions on either side of the room with translucent polycarbonate panels that let in natural light. Light-colored wood surfaces within the home reflect light and add to a sense of spaciousness. The client rents out the cabin as a rental vacation home to visitors.
Images via Alejandro Soffia, by Juan Durán Sierralta