Mainly known outside of his home country for his design of the 2014 Serpentine Gallery Pavilion, architect Smiljan Radić (born June 21, 1965) is one of the most prominent figures in current Chilean architecture. With a distinctive approach to form, materials, and natural settings, Radić mostly builds small- to medium-sized projects that flirt with the notion of fragility.
Born in Santiago de Chile, Radić graduated from the School of Architecture at the Universidad Católica de Chile, and opened his practice in 1995. He mostly built in his native country, where he was named the best architect under 35 by the Chilean College of Architects in 2001. His work mainly focuses on small-scale projects – houses, restaurants, and installations – that allow him to use artisanal production techniques and avoid mass production. Radić also developed some larger projects in the past few years, notably the VIK Winery and renovation of the Chilean Museum of Pre-Columbian Art in Santiago. In 2014, he was commissioned for the 14th edition of the Serpentine Gallery Pavilion and was among the seven internationally well-known architects selected to build bus stop shelters in the Austrian village of Krumbach.
His best-known work, the Serpentine Pavilion, demonstrated several themes essential to his architectural discourse. The installation consisted of a translucent fiberglass shell suspended on large quarry stones that curator Julia Peyton-Jones described as “an alien space pod that has come to rest on a neolithic site,” while Radić himself highlighted the project’s “handmade” and “crude” aesthetic. Radić uses materials of different weight and density to contrast what is alterable from what is permanent, and questions matters of time and history. He sees this fragility of material as an experiential quality that exposes the relationship between individuals and their context.
Beyond the formal appearance of fragile structures, working within the Chilean tradition of self-construction requires flexibility to alter the project and change its materials or construction techniques. Projects are in constant evolution and not set in some permanent state: a necessity that Copper House 2 and House for the Poem of the Right Angle clearly exemplify.
His work also questions the ephemeral character of architecture in relation to landscape. At the Mestizo Restaurant, heavy stones work as pillars to hold the roof structure and merge with the landscape as garden elements. Similarly, his project for Santiago’s Antenna Tower, with its light and fragile structure, minimizes damage to the landscape. The tower disappears like a ghost on cloudy days, giving it an unstable character. Radić’s VIK Winery couldn’t be more different to the tower – being mostly underground rather than reaching to the sky – but its architecture retains a sense of fragility; while the entrance to the winery is covered by an alterable stretched fabric roof, stones dispatched across an open plaza take part in the Andes’ timeless scenery.
Check out the thumbnails below to see Smiljan Radić’s work featured on ArchDaily, and further coverage of Radić after those: