Holcim Foundation


Sustainable post-earthquake reconstruction plan is Elementary!

ELEMENTAL SA led by prominent Chilean architect Alejandro Aravena was presented with a Global Holcim Awards Finalist 2012 certificate for the Sustainable post-tsunami reconstruction master plan, of Constitución. Their master plan for the reconstruction of the Chilean port of Constitución after it was destroyed by a tsunami produces not only a new, but also an enhanced urban space.

The Global Holcim Awards Finalist 2012 certificate was presented to the winners by Fernando Palma, Sales Director at Polpaico, the Holcim Group company in Chile. The handover breakfast event included a debate on sustainability issues in Chile, and was attended by more than 30 architects including representatives of the Global Holcim Awards finalist team from ELEMENTAL.

The project had already been selected to receive the Holcim Awards Silver 2011 for Latin America and automatically qualified for the global phase of the USD 2 million competition. Alejandro Aravena praised the Holcim Awards competition for supporting projects that are at an advanced stage of design rather than completed projects. “People engaged in sustainability know that bringing together ideas, knowledge and coordination is the most critical factor to ensure such projects come to life – and this is precisely what the Holcim Awards competition supports,” he said.

The master plan was developed after the 2010 earthquake and tsunami that struck Constitución, a city of 46,000 people located on the shore of the Pacific Ocean and 300km southwest of Chile’s capital, Santiago. 8.8 Earthquake Chile - Sustainable reconstruction master plan proposes a public-private strategy to respond with “geographical answers” to the “geographical threats” of the earthquake and tsunami risk. 

Instead of considering a construction ban or a massive barrier along the risk zones, the project proposes to plant the flood-prone areas in order to break the waves. Located behind this first line of defense are facilities that have specific restrictions on the use and layout of ground floor areas. These two interventions are accompanied by an evacuation plan as the third protection element. The aim is a long-term preservation of the city at its historical position next to the estuary mouth – a strategic location for the city’s economy. The complimentary concept is to create public open spaces along the banks of the river that alleviate the lack of inner-city recreation areas as well as support the dissipation of rainwater runoff in order to avoid further flooding. 

Alejandro Aravena thinks that the Holcim Award for ELEMENTAL’s strategy will facilitate project implementation. “Any confirmation that our project is a good thing helps us at the political level. Word then gets about: Hey, these guys are right!” But ultimately, the most important factor for architects is not necessarily the perception of outsiders, but the architect’s own appraisal. “The ultimate test for our proposals is always the question: ‘Would I want to live here if our plans are put into effect?’ In the case of Constitución I can answer this question without reservation in the affirmative. You are not often asked to develop an entire city, which is why I am happy that we have found such good solutions for Constitución,” he said.

Last Updated: March 24, 2013
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Santiago, Chile
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Sustainable post-tsunami reconstruction master plan
Sustainable post-tsunami reconstruction master plan

This master plan was developed after a 2010 earthquake and tsunami struck Constitución, a city of 46,000 people. It responds with...

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