riba awards

Public Library of Constitucion




Public Library of Constitucion Felipe Diaz 3 


ARCHITECT: Sebastian Irarrazaval Arquitectos

CLIENT: Fundacion La Fuente

AWARDS WON: RIBA Award for International Excellence 

The Public Library of Constitucion is one of a small number of initiatives to reinstate much needed civic fabric into the all but destroyed centre of Constitucion following both earthquake and tsunami in 2010. 

There have been efforts to rebuild housing and essential infrastructure and little by little the town is being rebuilt. There is much left to do but this library brought about by the Fundacion La Fuente and part funded by local industry has made a big difference to collective morale in the town. The people are justifiably proud of it. That said it has been built on a very tight budget and the money has had to go a long way. 

Designed with some surprising key formal moves it is unusual in form but effective. Essentially one room, the architect has chosen to place the main active area of the library about 1.5m above street level and close up to a ceiling, creating a both intimate and 'safe' feeling space all of which looks out of three tall windows over the town square. With all the height being orientated towards the street, this small building does its best to gain stature as a significant member of the group of civic buildings around the square; the library, the church, the cultural centre etc.

The building is built up to roof level in board marked concrete and from there up the roof is timber, locally sourced from the timber yards that dominate the employment and produce of this region. The three 'naves' are formed with their roofs as descending vaults, high to the street and low at the back - apparently originally they were to run through level from front to back but were reduced in height, a happy outcome of cost savings, and are much more interesting as a result. The reading areas are lit by low domestic lights and bookshelves are also low down, close to the floor. 

A combination of the benign climate of Constitucion and Chilean regulatory codes are such that heating is minimal, cooling achieved through natural cross ventilation only, and the building is effectively uninsulated. That said it appears to work reasonably well, is good civic architecture and clearly much loved. 

This building is a real achievement brought about in seriously difficult circumstances. That thoughtful and innovative architectural design was commissioned for this post disaster project is a credit to client and architect.


Contractor: Constructora Proessa

Structural Engineers: Cargaz Ingenieria


COST: £300,000


Date Of Occupation: 11/2015


PHOTOGRAPHER: Felipe Diaz Contardo

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