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Architecture School Graduate Discusses Newest Shelter ‘Atalaya’

Jaime Inostroza | Apr 21, 2017

Jaime Inostroza is a recent graduate of the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture. In April 2017, he completed the building of his desert shelter, Atalaya. Here, he explains his ideas behind the creation of Atalaya.

Atalaya Shelter: To Dwell in the Shadow of the Trees of the Sonora Desert

It was in March of 2016 when I start to talk with my mentor Aaron Betsky about the idea of the shelter. In that meeting Aaron asked me some fundamental questions for the shelter:

  • Find a site
  • What does this site wants to be?
  • How do I want to be in this site?
  • How does my design reflect what I have learned as a student at Taliesin?
  • What makes this site part of Taliesin?
  • What will the site be after I gone?

These questions were crucial for me in understanding the Taliesin territory and to develop a principle in architecture, an architectural observation that could respond to the landscape of the Sonora desert. I was walking through desert when I found my fellow student, Carl Kohut. He told me about a beautiful site and showed it to me. We walked along a path that I never I had never seen. Everything was new for me and then suddenly I saw the place a new. Immediately I knew that this was the right site.

It was like secret place hidden in the wash, covered by the shadows of the trees and looking out at the wash and the desert. The entrance to the site
is shaped by the Alameda of Palos Verdes. This creates the aperture to the site and at sunset the site becomes a distiller of the light. The mountains are now with purple in color. The landscape is an opera of colors.



From that observation of the site my principle was to develop an entrance procession that would let me dwell within the horizon of the Alameda of the Palos Verdes. Because of that the name of the project is “Atalaya,” which means crow nest. It is the highest point from the boat where you can see the horizon across the ocean. I used the existing concrete pad like a plinth that holds this structure and continued the procession with a combination wall- stair. The shelter will be covered with fabric panels and curtains that will amplify the colors of the desert.

As young architect, Taliesin is a great laboratory where you can test principles in architecture. To design and build, the logistics, the schedule, the materials, the landscape — all these factors are crucial to understand how the architect can manage the task of architecture. For me it is a privilege to continue the legacy of learning by doing at Taliesin.




All photos by Jaime Inostroza


Jaime Inostroza is a recent graduate of the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture. Before coming to Taliesin, Jaime studied architecture and worked for the government housing department in Valparaiso, Chile. 

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