Montemar Marine Biology Station
Preservation, Architecture, Sciences, Education, Modernist, ArchiScienza, Chile
The Montemar Institute of Marine Biology in central Chile is considered today a landmark of the Chilean architecture modern movement, as well as the first marine biology station in Latin America.
Designed by Chilean architect Enrique Gebhard, its construction started in 1941 and went through two construction phases until 1959. A last third part of the project was never built, including a public aquarium to educate over Chile’s marine life and resources.
The building has served its original purpose since its opening in 1941, however over exposition to a salty environment, several large earthquakes and substandard interventions to the building itself have taken its toll on the building structure. In 2008 World Monument Funds listed the Montemar Institute of Marine Biology in their watch of architectural heritage in need of urgent actions of preservation.
While visiting the building with a group of Dutch architects in 2017, this issue was raised by some of the visitors, in particular by Prof Fons Verheijen, board director of ArchiScienza a Dutch foundation dedicated to supporting projects on the intersections between science and architecture.
Following conversations between Manuel Toledo, ArchiScienza and Montemar’s Rector and Vice-rector, an agreement was achieve offering support to preservation efforts supported by their community. Manuel Toledo coordinates efforts between ArchiScienza and the Montemar staff in Chile.
Content edited and translated from “Nibaldo Bahamonde N., Fiftieth Anniversary of the Foundation of the Montemar Marine Biology Station, La Primera de América Latina: Recuerdos y Proyecciones, Revista Bilogía Marina, Valparaíso, November 1992”
On August 28, 1941, the then Rector of the University of Chile, Don Juvenal Hernández Jaques, established the decree that founded the Marine Biology Station dependent on the University of Chile and appointed Professor Dr Parmenio Yañez Andrade as its director. , who in turn had to dedicate his efforts to build the institution and the building that would receive it. Professor Yañez was a doctor by profession, and at the time of being nominated, he was returning from a study trip to Europe, commissioned by the University. During his extended stay, most of his time extended between two renowned German research institutes: The Limnological Station on Plön and the Heligoland Biological Laboratory.
By the end of 1937, Dr Yánez had requested the University of Chile a Study Commission in Europe to perfect their knowledge in Marine Biology and learn about their fishing industry projections, ‘in order to establish upon their return a Biological Station dependent on the University and destined to satisfy not only the needs of teaching and research but also all those of the national fishing industry.’
The Corporación de Fomento de la Producción (CORFO) state corporation dedicated to the promotion of productive activities in Chile was the financial agent that first supported the construction and later part of its investigations. They also help support the construction first and later part of their research. The Ministry of Public Works and Communication Roads and other similar institutions also collaborated. The watchful eye of Dr Yáñez, the Architect Mr Enrique Gebhard and the Engineer Mr Álvaro Alvarado had supervised the works since the beginning of 1941.
DESIGN & CONSTRUCTION
Content edited and translated from “Visitas a la Estación de Biología Marina”- University Bulletin number 5, August 1959, page 4.
Objectives of a New Architecture
For the construction of the Montemar Marine Biology Station, the architect defined three objectives to consider:
The Functional – That is, to solve the complex functions of the Building, to locate its feeding and classification room for the products of marine life, its library, its auditorium, its museum, etc. The accesses to the sea. All this to give way to Architecture.
The Geographical – The landscape and respect for the beach. A building that allows you to see the Pacific Ocean and that also deliberately frames its changing landscape. An Architecture for the sunny coasts of Viña del Mar, its most precious touristic value. That does not hide the rocks, the sand or the waters of the sea.
The Architecture – The game and the balance of the volumes, its exact meeting with the materials. The permanence of space and landscape as a cultural need. Search for the intimacy of your interior space, necessary for work and rest and to highlight the centres of active interest, creating a dialogue between architects, engineers, biologists and plastics. Duty of the University to point out new values and goals. These are the obvious interests and fascinations that emerges from a new architecture.