The Caterpillar House Brings Shipping Containers To The Andes

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.

Catterpillar House in the Andes cantilevers over landscape

Catterpillar House in the Andes three cantilevers

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.

Catterpillar House in the Andes brown metal shell

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.

Catterpillar House in the Andes rooftop view

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.

Catterpillar House in the Andes panoramic view

Catterpillar House in the Andes cantilever view

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.

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Catterpillar House in the Andes glass entrance

Catterpillar House in the Andes Jacuzzi deck

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.

Catterpillar House in the Andes kitchen opens to deck

Catterpillar House in the Andes open kitchen view

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.

Catterpillar House in the Andes long hallway

Catterpillar House in the Andes staircase connects two floors

Catterpillar House in the Andes metal staircase

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.

Catterpillar House in the Andes living room view

Catterpillar House in the Andes lounge area on deck

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.

Catterpillar House in the Andes bedroom white and gray palette

Catterpillar House in the Andes bedroom skylight

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.

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Catterpillar House in the Andes bathroom black and white

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