A rustic modern retreat by WMR Arquitectos is drawing wind seekers of all stripes to the Maule region.
Along the shores of the Maule region, halfway up the Chilean coast, the wind is more than just another kind of weather. It shapes the landscape, the architecture and, increasingly, even the economy.
Located a half day’s drive south of Santiago, Maule is buffeted by the southerly surazo wind, which blows steadily and lures tourists in search of windsurfing and kitesurfing spots. Here, growing numbers of adventure seekers are prompting many of the fishing villages that dot the coast to turn over their beachfronts to hotels, resorts and restaurants.
In the midst of this, surrounded by green fields, tiny hillocks, quaint weekend houses and, of course, the Pacific Ocean, stands the Hotel Punta Sirena. Situated along a stretch of beach on the outskirts of the town of Curanipe, the hotel was designed by WMR Arquitectos of Santiago to offer simple, elegant accommodations for wind-loving tourists. The striking contemporary form, built entirely with locally sourced materials and labour, has resulted in a relaxed, casual ambience.
The structure is developed over two storeys. On the ground floor, a long, bar-shaped volume runs perpendicular to the shoreline; perched atop it, the second storey takes the form of a skewed letter Y, balanced on the ground floor at the point where its three sections converge. From this crux – where the multi-purpose yoga room and the staircase leading to the ground floor are located – the upper level’s arms branch out at angles calibrated to capture the best views: one overlooks the bay to the north, another the bay to the south; and the third faces east toward the rolling fields.
Pilotis grounded on individual foundations support the projecting second-floor planes. Nature supplies a ready source of inspiration for the architects, and here they have borrowed from trees. The slender, creosote-treated pinewood stilts are resistant to both wind and waves, designed to accept the force of a potential tsunami without buckling like a solid wall would.
It’s a significant concern: swaths of the Chilean coast are still recovering from a massive tsunami that swept through in 2010. With that in mind, the architects designed the ground-floor windows to rupture on impact, allowing the open wooden frame to withstand a hit without sustaining structural damage (the occupants must evacuate to higher ground).
A screen of vertical eucalyptus twigs sheathes some of the volumes, giving shade and natural ventilation during the day. In the evening, it creates the stunning effect of a lantern floating above the landscape. Navigation within the hotel feels like a nature walk, with the corridors completely open to the elements. Since the wind can be chilly during the off-season, the architects have incorporated ample opportunities to take in the exquisite views from enclosed spaces throughout.
The rooms – 12 doubles and twins, and three shared rooms with bunk beds, all on the second floor – feature fully glazed walls overlooking the ocean. Interiors are spare, with a clean, crisp look and feel. Much of the character derives from the floors and ceilings in dark-stained pine, the walls of rough-sawn timber, and the balconies, which provide an ideal spot to sip a morning coffee.
A waterfront terrace – situated on top of the first-floor restaurant, and sheltered from the winds by the second storey’s branching arms – offers an impressive lookout onto the lush green surroundings, complete with cows grazing in the fields nearby. Below, the hotel shop, administrative and reception areas, and a storage area for guests’ sporting equipment round out the indoor spaces. On clear nights, a bonfire pit made from logs and stones presents the perfect chance to share a sundowner with family and friends.
IF YOU GO
How to get there
The drive south from Santiago takes about six hours, a road trip made more appealing by magnificent vistas of the Andes Mountains. Hugging the coast, the route passes through many of Maule’s resort towns. Constitución, a port city that was flattened by the devastating tsunami in 2010, is along the way. While traces of the disaster remain five years later, an impressive reconstruction effort is underway, including a forested buffer zone spearheaded by architect Alejandro Aravena of the Santiago firm Elemental.
You can also reach the hotel by air, when viable, with flights from Santiago landing at the Black Stone Airfield in Pelluhue, roughly a kilometre away.
Things to do
Hotel Punta Sirena is a water sport lover’s paradise, with high season promising powerful waves from October to March. Kitesurfing and windsurfing are the most popular activities; for beginners, the hotel’s school will get you on your feet. For the less adventurous, the hotel offers a wide range of activities, including mountain hiking, tours of nearby villages and horseback riding. The locale is also an idyllic place to stroll, camera in hand, along the many beaches.
Where to eat
The hotel restaurant serves simple, exquisite meals prepared by an in-house chef using local ingredients. They emphasize fish and other seafood, fruits from nearby orchards, and Chilean wines. For those ready to head farther afield, the new town square, just a few kilometres from the hotel, offers fabulous seafood empanadas and handmade cakes for takeout.
→ Shared rooms from $75 per night, double rooms from $225. puntasirena.com