ESO Hotel on Cerro Paranal, Chile 2002 International competition 1998 1st prize
The European Southern Observatory (ESO) operates the Very Large Telescope (VLT) on the Cerro Paranal, a mountain in the northern part of the Atacama desert in Chile. The VLT is the world’s most powerful earthbased telescope. Beneath the summit, at a height of some 2,400 meters, lies the hotel for the ESO scientists and engineers who work here on a roster system. For the relatively short time of their stays under extreme climatic conditions – intense sunlight, extreme dryness, high wind speeds, great fluctuations in temperature and the danger of earthquakes – a place has been created far away from civilization where they can relax and rest between the strenuous phases of their work. Reminiscent of an oasis, it provides 120 hotel rooms, a canteen, and lounge areas, as well as a swimming pool, fitness center and library.
The hotel complex fits snugly into an existing depression in the ground, acting as an artificial support wall. It does nothing to impede the breathtaking view over the horizon out to the Pacific Ocean. This emphasis on reflecting nature sets the hotel in direct and deliberate contrast to the high-tech telescope complex atop Cerro Paranal’s summit.
A single element of the hotel's structure is visible above the horizon: a slightly raised dome comprising a steel skeleton that measures 35 meters in diameter. It rises up above the central lounge area and creates a formal counterpart to the telescope’s enormous concave mirrors.