Cascada de las Animas (Mon., 3/15/09) – Designing with Nature on the Rio Maipo

An artisan’s recycling leads to beautiful and sustainable structures.

The buildings at Cascada de las Animas are works of art.  Lovely lines, natural surfaces and colors, and sensuously carved wooden beams flow well with the sound of the river.  Upon further investigation, attention to construction detail is evident.  Circles of stained glass are nested into the walls.  The enormous polished tree trunks within the buildings were carefully chosen for their shapes and curves.  The structures appear solid and well insulated.  I guess that they are cob or adobe over straw-bale, maybe over cordwood; I recognize the hand smoothed plaster.  Then I walk behind the restaurant to see a wall of old tires, both a contrast to and somehow made beautiful by the fantastic and expansive patio over Rio Maipo.  My guess was close, but not accurate.  These are a type of structure I’ve seen before, taken to an entirely  new level of craftsmanship. Intriguing!

The diverse and multi-talented family that owns and manages Cascada de las Animas includes at least one amazing craftsman:  Sergio Andrade.  His vision has resulted in a site that is artfully designed to merge with its surroundings and utilizes sustainable materials.  Take a whirl on his website!  There is even a version translated into English. I particularly recommend checking out the video under the “Houses” section.  My Spanish language skills are minimal, but these images need no interpretation.

According to family friend and director of New River Academy, David Hughes, much of the wood that Sergio uses is salvaged cypress.  As David and I look around in Sergio’s workshop, the evidence for this assertion abounds.  Natural curves, branches, and “imperfections” in trees are typically considered undesireable and are left in the stand after a timber harvest.  Sergio utilizes exactly these types of pieces in his craft. His work is sustainable and breathtaking!