No. 337 . 06 June 2007 
ArchitectureWeek
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Santiago Fire Station

by Michael J. Crosbie

Sometimes designing a firehouse isn't just about fire trucks, bells, and red doors. In designing the 18th Firemen's Brigade in Santiago, Chile, architect Gonzalo Mardones Viviani found that he had to give careful consideration to the firehouse's role in the surrounding neighborhood of Viracura and to its function as a real "house," a home to the fire fighters who live there together with their families.

The resulting design is one that operates at several different scales and makes a bridge between the institution of the firehouse and its place in a family neighborhood — helping to strengthen both.

The 18th Firemen's Brigade is located near two major thoroughfares in Santiago. The 21,700-square-foot (2,020-square-meter) building faces north, with views toward the Andes Mountains. The north elevation is the public face of the firehouse, where the fire engines are displayed through the all-glass facade of the garage doors and walls.

Mixed-Use Firehouse

In plan, the engine room is the pivot point for the entire building, with living quarters to the south and community spaces to the west. The glass walls communicate a message to the neighborhood that is open and friendly, inviting the public into the firehouse to visit a restaurant on the first floor, located to the south of the two-story engine room.

To North Americans, a restaurant in a firehouse might seem a little strange, but why not? The goal is to make the building an integral part of the community, a place where people feel welcome and "at home."   >>>

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