BACK TO BASICS
KEEPING IT REAL WITH ARCHITECT & PURE AWARDS JUDGE, GÉ RMAN DEL SOL
WORDS BY SARA HENRICHS
After a long journey all the way down to Chile’s deepest southern spot, we connected with PURE Awards judge Germán del Sol and got him to tell us about designing explora resorts, his latest project and the future of sustainable landscape architecture in high-end travel.
Sara Henrichs: You are one of Chile’s most influential architects focusing mainly on sustainable design. What was your passion and drive to study architecture?
Germán del Sol: I have always been surprised by places that reflect human’s desire of beauty. Places that transcend their practical use, and show some of the human splendour. And I have always tried to learn from them, how to give place now to human life in plenitude and overcome its miseries.
SH: You designed the explora resorts, which put Chile on the global map for innovative landscape architecture. Can you tell us about the concept and why you decided to launch it?
GdS: The idea behind explora was to open up remote, world class destinations for discerning travellers in the southern tip of America. The two first hotels in Patagonia and Atacama – which include horse stables, spas and Puritama Hot Spring complexes – were designed to form part of the landscape. I think that landscape has an inside that some people get and others not, and that every building must relate properly to its natural and cultural environment, in order to make the experience be fruitful for its visitors.
SH: You have been building ecological resorts, wineries and thermal spas. Do you think they are the future of travel? Is that what the high-end traveller is looking for? How do you see sustainable architecture evolving in the future?
GdS: If we do not want to destroy the beauty of diversity that refined travellers are looking for, well designed ecological resorts, wineries and thermal spas may be the appropriate architecture for present and future travel destinations. When a place is overbuilt, its natural and cultural environment disappears and is replaced by the sad international style of urban mass and skyscrapers. Sustainable architecture means beautiful architecture done with more love than money.
SH: The right architecture can attract the right crowd anywhere in the world. How do you see your influence as an architect towards Experiential Travel? Do you think it’s important for the traveller to be more involved in the local community and to make it part of their travel experience?
GdS: I wish architecture had more influence than money in the short run. In the long run good architecture is a good business for any lucid society. I understand that it may sound politically incorrect, but let us leave the local communities alone to live their lives and do their businesses and crafts as they like them, and take travellers to meet them only in the public local markets – one of the few places where the exchange may really be of interest for both parties.
SH: What projects are you currently working on?
GdS: I am working in a master plan proposal to make Chile’s badly needed infrastructure to produce energy, add beauty and cultural interest to the landscape instead of being ugly and destructive to their environment.
SH: Which was your most challenging and exciting assignment?
GdS: If I am able to do it right, this project may be a contribution to the cultural landscape of a country that has given me so much and that I love.
SH: How do you pick a location and does it become the main source for your design? What other areas inspire you and where would you like to build your next resort?
GdS: A location captures my attention if it shows some potential of becoming a place. And a place only exists after someone who creates that piece of architecture is poetically inspired – it will be good and beautiful there in that moment. And that also includes the past and the future that may also be present.
SH: What is your favourite place to be and why?
GdS: It is always here and now.