In today’s competitive global economies, the value of architecture is often determined by its visual immediacy. One major critique of “iconic” architecture, however, is that it leads to the design of objects rather than buildings. As a result, the desire for a strong formal identity is often in conflict with the need for programmatic and spatial variation.

The project is a new headquarters of the European Southern Observatory (ESO) in Santiago, Chile. Nearly seventy percent of the world’s observational astronomy takes place in Chile due to the unique clarity of the atmosphere above the Atacama Desert. In its current condition, however, the headquarters for the ESO in Santiago does not establish an urban presence.

Iconomics deploys a strategy of aggregation, which allows for “iconic” forms to be assembled into rich spatial configurations. By developing a taxonomy of X-shaped figures, the project sets up opportunities for variations in both scale and form. The manipulation of these X’s creates permeability throughout the complex by lifting the volumes off of the ground plane. The strategy further breaks up the block in plan to create courtyards for social interaction.

Professor: Troy Schaum