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"Thermo Dynamic"

Conde Nast Traveller
Word of Mouth

by Mary Heebner
photos by Macduff Everton

CULTURAL TRAVELLER: Germán del Sol, Chile’s iconoclast architect known for two searingly modern Hotel exploras in Patagonia and the Atacama desert, has just completed his latest project ˆ Termas Geometricas near Pucón in Chile’s Lake District, an area dense with volcanoes and geothermal springs.
“I think that only when we have no expectations do we really begin to see,” says del Sol: “When you arrive at explora de Patagonia, you are tired, exhausted, uncomfortable. The first thing you see is a small humble door leading to a second smaller door. You think; I came all the way down here for this? Then the door opens out onto a beautifully created space. With expectations reduced, you see it with fresh eyes.”
Like Richard Long, the site-specific sculptor that del Sol so admires, the 56-year-old Chilean architect relies on the materials at hand. With junior partner, 27-year-old José Luis Ibañez, they counted wood, stone, and local artisans as the resources from which to create Termas Geometricas, a 500metre-long red boardwalk leading up a green canyon to the heart of a thundering waterfall, punctuated with 17 hot and four cold slate-lined pools brimming with pure geothermal water, cascades, natural showers, water-wheels and rills. Sod-roofed, barn-red cabañas provide lockers, privacy and an architectural counterpoint to the upward movement of the angular walkway. There is also a quincho, or gathering room of hand-hewn benches around a sand and stone-lined fire pit; here, guests sip cucumber and lemon water, enjoying hearty jamon y queso sandwiches (1000 pesos) or picnics of their own. At twilight the walk is lined with candles. Arrive before 10pm, and you can stay until midnight. Finally, retreat to Hotel Antumalal, a 1950-era lakeside retreat amid eight acres of garden ribboned with stone pathways a TK-minute drive away. Here, Bauhaus meets Frank Lloyd Wright, the creation of owner Guillermo Pollak and architect Jorge Elton. This building “taught me everything I need to know,” says del Sol. He speaks with humility: in this instance, it looks like the pupil may have outdone his master.


Mary Heebner


Termas Geometricas is open from 10am-10pm daily. Admission, 5000 pesos. Enquiries, TK, web TK. Hotel Antumalal is 90 minutes from Temuco airport, on the eastern edge of Lake Villarrica, near Pucón. Enquiries, 56-45-441011


©2003 Mary Heebner