Atacama Desert Inspires Outdoor Performance Venue by Coz y Ortiz Arquitectos, Marco Polidura, and Sebastián Alvarez
There’s no better place for an outdoor performance venue than somewhere it never rains. Such is the case with the Atacama Desert, approximately 700 miles north of Santiago, Chile, where the Teatro al Aire Libre Ruinas de Huanchaca has opened. The otherworldly landscape was another influence in nearly every design decision by Coz y Ortiz Arquitectos, which collaborated with Marco Polidura and Sebastián Alvarez on the 4,200-square-foot structure plus seating.
Aside from the theater’s pine quadratic diffuser, the elements are entirely reinforced concrete, which makes them appear to emerge directly from the rocky terrain, melding seamlessly with the surrounding historic buildings. “The ruins look ancient Egyptian, but they’re from a 19th-century silver refinery,” Coz y Ortiz principal Benjamín Ortiz says, who became familiar with the Antofagasta Region when he, Ramón Coz, and Polidura designed the Museo del Desierto de Atacama in 2007. The siting takes advantage of the elevation, using the slope to create amphitheater seating for 700.
The theater’s 16-foot-high cantilevered roof doubles as a platform for viewing the Pacific Ocean, along with the desert’s astronomical wonders—with little light pollution and nearly year-round clear skies, the area is a stargazer’s dream. “You’re supposed to feel like you’re in the landscape, feeling the sea next to you,” Ortiz adds. Even without a show, it’s dramatic on its own.