To attract more visitors to Lanalhue Lake, in western Chile, tourism entrepreneur Pedro Durán commissioned architect Susana Herrera and her team FACTORIA to create a symbol for the region. In return, she designed a catamaran that rises from the water like a cluster of cattail leaves.
“We wanted this Artisanal foliage to emerge from the very nature of the lake, from its marsh grasses, from the wild nature of its shoreline, like woodwater creature coming in and out the natural fog, always present in the mystical legends of the lake”, she says.
She challenged a team of PolyteSolet and more than 15 local artisans to build the boat, by integrating nature, technology and sustainability; the result is the 10-by-4.5-metre Arca de Quelén, a catamaran that can carry up to 40 passengers plus crew. Crafted from laminated bay laurel and cypress, and equipped with a bar and a boutique that sells local products and handicrafts, the vessel has already grown into a source of local pride. And while it navigates a far-flung lake, it aims to attract travellers from overseas to experience its singular design.
We needed to give connectivity between the various touristic entrepreneurs of the lake, and at the same time deliver a memorable and unique experience. We wanted the ark to move almost in a secretive and smooth way, to alter as little as possible the fauna surround, so the double-hulled catamaran gave the stability and safety we needed.
Just as the Mapuche ancestors built their canoe like Wampos from a carved log, this vessel had to be built on wood and made tribute to those that inhabit the lakes way before us.
This project, must incorporate additional parameters beyond those for architecture, and that was very attractive design wise. We had to get familiar with aspects of computer lofting, 3D modelling, hydrostatic calculations, and creation of boat layouts. In terms of design process, it approaches both, computer-aided design and the craft of woodworking.
Resilient strength, permanent watertightness, and graceful marsh grasses lines are part of the design theme. The structural ribs highlight the verticality of the ship, dematerializing itself as they touch the sky on the second ledge. In addition, they give an integrated image to the two levels of the boat. The first level closed by a skin of curved polycarbonate sliding windows that allows a 360 panoramic view of the surroundings during winter and another completely open to the landscape on the second level. This contributes to breaking the tourist seasonality. The intentions is to think of this vessel as highly organic expressions of nature, architecture and design reflecting the specificity of this lake by hand crafted means, including natural materials, software systems and laminated wood methods of fabrication.
We combined traditional boatbuilding methods with cold-moulded wood construction. The technique involves laminating together layers of wood veneers and wood sticks to create a hull that is watertight, extremely strong, and lightweight. We embraced wood and woodworking techniques with an emphasis on hand tool usage as well, bringing an experience of close contact with wood, enabling us to get to know and work with its grain structure and complex joinery.