ESO Hotel at Cerro Paranal (Residencia)
Designed by the German architects of Auer+Weber+Assoziierte, this hotel serves as a sanctuary for the astronomers and visitors of the European Southern Observatory’s Paranal Observatory. Hardly visible from the entrance road, the submerged the L-shaped structure is marked by a long brick entrance and skylight dome. Once inside, “cavernous public spaces echo the openness of the desert” and are “enclosed by dark earth tones that produce a cozy and secure effect.”
ESO Hotel at Cerro Paranal (or Residencia) is the accommodation for Paranal Observatory in Chile since 2002. It is mainly used for the ESO (European Southern Observatory) scientists and engineers who work there on a roster system.
The hotel is located at 2,400 meters (7,900 ft) above sea level on Cerro Paranal. The people there work in extreme climatic conditions including intense sunlight, dryness, high wind speeds and great fluctuations in temperature. To protect against these an artificial oasis has been built where people can relax between shifts. The Hotel has public spaces: a canteen, lounge, swimming pool, a fitness center and library.
The architect was Auer+Weber+Assoziierte of Germany and the constructor was Vial y Vives Ltda. of Chile. The total surface is 10 000 m², with the L-shape being 176 m x 53 m. It has 4 levels, 1 000 m² of Gardens, 108 rooms, and 18 offices. It includes a restaurant, music room, library, swimming-pool, and sauna. Its inauguration was in February 2002.
Since February 2002, the Paranal Residencia has provided accommodation for people working shifts at ESO’s flagship observatory site. Paranal, in Chile’s Atacama Desert, is the home of ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT).
The historical photograph shows the Residencia under construction at the end of 2000. The building materials have the same colour as the desert, to help it blend into the landscape, and the partially completed central area of the Residencia is reminiscent of an amphitheatre, with stone tiers open to the cloudless sky.
Today, the Residencia looks quite different! Despite the subterranean location, the building’s distinctive design creates an interior with a feeling of open space. The central hall is protected by a 35-metre-wide glazed dome, which allows natural daylight into the building. The sterile amphitheatre of 2000 is reinvented as a lush tropical garden, with a pool at the bottom. Both the garden and the pool are designed to increase the humidity indoors, allowing staff some respite from the extremely arid conditions outside, in one of the driest places on Earth.
Perfectly integrated into the Mars-like landscape of Paranal in order to affect the astronomical observations as little as possible, it is no surprise that the Residencia was chosen as the perfect Bond villain’s hide-out.
The excellent astronomical conditions at Paranal come at a price. In this forbidding desert environment, virtually nothing can grow outside. The humidity drops below 10%, there are intense ultraviolet rays from the sun, and the high altitude leaves people short of breath. Living in this extremely isolated place feels like visiting another planet.
To make it possible for people to live and work here, a hotel or “Residencia” was built in the base camp, allowing them to escape from the arid outside environment. Returning from long shifts at the VLT and other installations on the mountain, here they can breathe moist air and relax, sheltered from the harsh conditions outside.
This award-winning construction was designed by German architects Auer+Weber as a subterranean L-shape, with a 35-metre dome covering an indoor garden; the use of natural materials and colours allows for a smooth integration in the Atacama’s landscape.
This singular building provides a unique backdrop for the James Bond film “Quantum of Solace”. The movie producer, Michael G. Wilson, said: “The Residencia of Paranal Observatory caught the attention of our director, Marc Forster and production designer, Dennis Gassner, both for its exceptional design and its remote location in the Atacama desert. It is a true oasis and the perfect hide out for Dominic Greene, our villain, whom 007 is tracking in our new James Bond film.”
Project name: ESO Hotel at Cerro Paranal (Residencia)
Location: Cerro Paranal, Antofagasta, Chile
Latitude/Longitude: 24°38’25S 70°23’18W
Size: 4 levels, 1 000 m² of Gardens, 108 rooms, 18 offices
Total Surface: 10,000 sqm
Construction Year: 2000
Cost: € 11000000
Completion Year: 2003