The Caterpillar House is a modern family home situated in Santiago de Chile. It was built in 2012 and occupies a surface of 350 square meters. The house was designed by Santiago Irarrazaval Architects in collaboration with Erick Caro for an art collector and his family.
Although the reason why it was named like this is still unclear, we can suspect that it has something to do with the way the volumes interact with the slope and the way they cantilever over the landscape. The rocky hills surrounding the house presented a series of challenges related to the building process.
To reduce the building time and to minimize all the effort put into this project, a simple solution was chosen: to use shipping containers. As a result, this is a prefab house made using five 40” containers, six 20” containers and a 40” open top one.
There were two main concerns in the case of this project. One was to integrate the house into its surroundings. The Andes mountains didn’t exactly offer the most friendly conditions, although the views are extraordinary. The sloped ground dictated the design of the house for the most part.
The other was to create smooth natural ventilation and to let the air run easily through the house. In order to make that happen, considering the nature of the house, the architects had to use some ingenious strategies.
The windows and the doors are all aligned along straight axis. There’s also a clear and practical distribution of the spaces. The public areas were positioned on the ground level and the private volumes are placed at the top level. Three volumes cantilever and each has a different length. They all open up to the views and two of them end in open balconies with glass balustrades.
To offer the house a uniform look, the shipping containers used in the process were all wrapped in the same material which, at the same time, creates a well-ventilated facade.
The array of materials used for this project were selected using three main criteria. They had to be low cost, low maintenance and they had to age well so time could add value to the home and not destroy it little by little.
For the interior, the designers chose a modern-industrial approach, using lots of steel combined with wood and glass. Large windows and skylights allow natural light to enter all the rooms. The kitchen also opens onto a wooden deck.
The color palette is neutral throughout the house. White, gray and black and the three main tones used to give each space character and to to maintain cohesiveness throughout. They were combined in various ways but always with harmony in mind.