Press Release

ALMA Residencia Handed Over

New accommodation for staff and visitors at ALMA site in Chile

25 April 2017

The new ALMA Residencia at the ALMA Operations Support Facility has just been handed over to the Joint ALMA Observatory. The celebration event was attended by the ALMA Board and the directors of the three executives — ESO, NAOJ and NRAO. The architects who designed the building were also present. The ALMA Residencia is the last major construction item to be delivered to the ALMA project by ESO.

The handover of the ALMA Residencia is a landmark in the development of the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA). The new building will provide accommodation for ALMA staff and visitors at the ALMA Operations Support Facility (OSF), close to San Pedro de Atacama in northern Chile, just 28 kilometres away from the telescope itself. ESO is providing the Residencia, which is its final major contribution to the ALMA project.

The design for the building was undertaken by the Finnish architects Kouvo & Partanen and was then adapted to the Chilean market by Rigotti & Simunovic Arquitectos, a Chilean architecture firm. The construction contract for the ALMA Residencia was awarded to the consortium AXIS LyD Construcciones Ltda, consisting of Constructora L y D S.A. and Axis Desarrollos Constructivos S.A. Both are Chilean companies that already had extensive experience in constructing residential buildings in the challenging environment of northern Chile. Construction  began officially on 23 February 2015.

The buildings have been designed so that the shape and colour of the exterior of this major architectural project will blend with the topography, the environment and the landscape of the ALMA site. Given the harsh desert environment, remote location and pattern of shift working (both day and night) for the ALMA staff, the Residencia has been designed to provide a pleasant on-site environment for staff and visitors who come from numerous countries worldwide.

The Residencia has two main zones: common areas and dormitory areas. The design uses a modular concept so that more accommodation can be added if necessary. For now, there are 120 rooms extending across six buildings. The common areas feature impressive leisure facilities including a library, cafeteria, lounge, spa with gym, swimming pool, sauna and barbecue area. There is also a kitchen and an extensive dining room, with space to accommodate half of the residents in one sitting.

The OSF, the site of the Residencia, is 2000 metres lower than the telescope itself up on the Chajnantor plateau. ALMA consists of an array of 66 high-precision radio antennas, of 12 metres and 7 metres diameter, working at millimetre and submillimetre wavelengths. The observatory began scientific observations at the end of September 2011 and studies the building blocks of stars, planetary systems, galaxies and life itself, letting astronomers address some of the deepest questions of our cosmic origins.

More information

ALMA is a global partnership between Europe, North America and East Asia, in cooperation with the Republic of Chile. ALMA is funded in Europe by the European Southern Observatory (ESO), in North America by the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) in cooperation with the National Research Council of Canada (NRC) and the National Science Council of Taiwan (NSC) and in East Asia by the National Institutes of Natural Sciences (NINS) of Japan in cooperation with the Academia Sinica (AS) in Taiwan. ALMA construction and operations are led on behalf of Europe by ESO, on behalf of North America by the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO), which is managed by Associated Universities, Inc. (AUI) and on behalf of East Asia by the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan (NAOJ). The Joint ALMA Observatory (JAO) provides the unified leadership and management of the construction, commissioning and operation of ALMA.

ESO is the foremost intergovernmental astronomy organisation in Europe and the world’s most productive ground-based astronomical observatory by far. It is supported by 16 countries: Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Czechia, Denmark, France, Finland, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom, along with the host state of Chile. ESO carries out an ambitious programme focused on the design, construction and operation of powerful ground-based observing facilities enabling astronomers to make important scientific discoveries. ESO also plays a leading role in promoting and organising cooperation in astronomical research. ESO operates three unique world-class observing sites in Chile: La Silla, Paranal and Chajnantor. At Paranal, ESO operates the Very Large Telescope, the world’s most advanced visible-light astronomical observatory and two survey telescopes. VISTA works in the infrared and is the world’s largest survey telescope and the VLT Survey Telescope is the largest telescope designed to exclusively survey the skies in visible light. ESO is a major partner in ALMA, the largest astronomical project in existence. And on Cerro Armazones, close to Paranal, ESO is building the 39-metre Extremely Large Telescope, the ELT, which will become “the world’s biggest eye on the sky”.



Richard Hook
ESO Public Information Officer
Garching bei München, Germany
Tel: +49 89 3200 6655
Cell: +49 151 1537 3591

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About the Release

Release No.:eso1713
Name:ALMA Residencia
Type:Unspecified : Technology : Observatory : Facility
Facility:Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array


The ALMA Residencia
The ALMA Residencia
ALMA Residencia handed over
ALMA Residencia handed over
ALMA Residencia handed over
ALMA Residencia handed over


ESOcast 103 Light: New ALMA accommodation unveiled (4K UHD)
ESOcast 103 Light: New ALMA accommodation unveiled (4K UHD)
ALMA Residencia construction time-lapse
ALMA Residencia construction time-lapse
ALMA Residencia construction time-lapse
ALMA Residencia construction time-lapse