La Estrella Steeple

La Estrella is a small rural town located in mid Chile. This DesignBuild project is part of a larger commission from the local parish based on a master plan to renovate the outdoor public space in front of the church, including a steeple in ruins due to earthquake activity in the area. The steeple itself became an opportunity that fitted the scale and level of complexity that could be developed through a one-semester DesingBuild project.

The steeple is located in a public space next to the town's main square and has a high significance for the community. The objective of the proposal is to sustainably develop the structurally efficient infrastructure that allows the installation of the existing bells and defines an urban landmark.

The project considered the participation of various community members in the management and design process through consultation activities. The stakeholders were the local parish and a group of town citizens. Funds for the steeple were managed by the stakeholders, collecting them from different sources, most of them private. A series of promoting activities was carried out for the community to get acquainted with the project. This included participation through a voting process held for one week and via social media for the inhabitants of the town.

The design was developed by undergraduate architecture students in a course that explores building materials through the construction of full-scale prototypes. Students generated the structure inspired by local material supplies, tools and resources while the proposed building strategy encourages a low environmental impact of onsite construction.

The design consists of an 8-meter high timber post and beam structure. The frame array responds to lateral seismic stresses using a diagonal grid. The use of wood as building material is based on its excellent seismic performance and a renovated expression of lightness for the landmark. The 3"x 8" Oregon Pine sawn timber structure with steel joints was completely prefabricated as the time frame is a fundamental issue for delivering a successful experience. During the 6-month course, students developed study prototypes every week. These prototypes were developed and detailed afterward, to comply with code regulations before assembling it on site. Finally, assembly was carried out in just one day using a crane.

Images and Plans



Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile
Christian Schmitt


Curso Introducción a la Construcción
Parroquia San Nicolás de Tolentino
Diego Arroyo
Benjamín Lezaeta
José Luis Pino
Juan Erenchun

Academic Discipline(s)
60 Students
Academic Level(s)
Academic Facts
Transportation of Skill
Project Context
Community / Culture | Religion
Construction Methods/Techniques