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FCSI member’s hotel project in Santiago scoops UNESCO Grand Prix 2017

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William Taunton FCSI's work with celebrated architect Cazu Zegers on Hotel Magnolia in Santiago, Chile, is honored with one of the biggest accolades in the industry, reports Michael Jones

The chair of FCSI Worldwide and managing director of Gastrotec in Santiago, Chile, William Taunton FCSI was an integral part of a team including leading architect Cazu Zegers recently awarded with the UNESCO Grand Prix 2017 for their contribution to the outstanding Hotel Magnolia project in Santiago Chile. Here he discusses the project, from conception to completion.

How does it feel to win the UNESCO Grand Prix 2017 for Hotel Magnolia in Santiago Chile? Why is this such a huge honor?

Honestly it was a surprise. It wasn’t us, Gastrotec, who won the award, it was the architect Cazu Zegers who won it and she wanted to share it with all of us who worked with her on it. That was really nice of her to be honest. We feel honored. I think the important thing here is that the project is in Chile, such a faraway country with not many projects being developed every year in comparison with the big markets (Brazil, Argentina, Colombia and Peru) and hundreds of millions of people in those countries. That makes the award something special. How many projects are developed every year in the Caribbean, Central and south America? Hundreds, I guess, and this is a very small boutique hotel in downtown Santiago, Chile. A really little market. So the chances of winning something were really small.

Why was this a significant project for Gastrotec?

This was a very complex historical building, that could not be modified, in the heart of downtown Santiago. The project took years to be completed and the construction, due to its characteristics, was very slow. The original project had a different architect and everything was a mess even our foodservice project. When Cazu Zegers took the project everything was re-done and re-planned. Small projects like this are always very tricky and this one was one of those. It took a long time.

How long did it take, from design, thru execution to opening?

I would say that from the day we started on the first project until we released to the operation was about four to five years.

What were the biggest challenges you faced at the outset of this project? What were you hoping to achieve?

The size of the kitchen and the health department requirements in such a small space. Also the waste management logistics of it to accomplish with the local codes.

Is there any specific innovation/equipment that was implemented on this project that was new to you/the team?

No, it is pretty simple due to the size of it, but the cherry on the pie here were the two bars, one in the lobby and the one in the roof with amazing views of Santiago’s downtown area.

Please describe what Gastrotec brought to this project?

The owner of this property, José Villanueva, has several properties, but this one seemed to be his baby. So we discussed with him every detail from kitchen capacities, energy efficiency alternatives, ductwork for ventilation, everything. He was very involved in every aspect. It was certainly a good project and a good client, always open to our suggestions and concerns.

Why are you particularly proud of this project?

Because we really never expected much about it, it was small, not really trendy, complex, etc. but when Cazu took control and we start looking at the results it was a surprise… I think that is why she won this award. Congratulations to Cazu Zegers and José Villanueva.

Michael Jones