The mining disaster that put Chilean miners on the map was located in the nothern Atacama Desert, which is one of the most inhospitable places on the planet. With the current huge jumps in energy demands and minerals the mining industry is growing and having to move into areas where resources are and most aren’t the greatest places to be. North Atacama desert for example is one of the driest places on earth as well as sunniest. AATA Architects were requested to come up with a design that was low-cost but also effective for miners to live in. This resulted in a shipping container complex which is quite literally big enough to be its own village. They then roof covered the entire complex with drapes to reduce the intake of sunlight.
he unique solution was based on clustering prefabricated shipping containers to form housing pods. Six units per pod were stacked two units high and then connected to each other in a ‘C’ formation that allows natural ambient light in but blocks extreme temperatures during warm days and cold nights. Five containers are for sleeping and one is a dedicated restroom. In all, 16 pods can house 320 people.
The huge canvas roof is the key to the design’s success. Set on steel trusses, it creates a micro climate that tempers the harsh environment. The roof provides ample protection from the sun in one of the hottest and driest places on the planet, and it also encourages cross breezes while blocking harsh winds. The roof also helps keep heat from radiating out at night — the project is situated approximately 1,500 meters above sea level so the evenings get cold.
The design works so well that patches of grass could be placed at each pod, providing a humble but critical micro climate in one of the most extreme places on the planet.