El Chaltén sits at the edge of nowhere, nestled in the dazzling rocky landscapes of southern Patagonia, between Chile and Argentina. With only 400 permanent residents, untouched nature still rules here. Yet, what captured the eye of Poirier is not the natural scenery but the many somewhat eccentric single storey homes along the village’s roads. The concrete and brick structures are topped with metal roofing, making the houses’ architecture indisputably practical. There is a necessity to such an architectural style: protection, first and foremost, from the Patagonian weather. Yet, the houses are also conspicuously loud, and do not merge harmoniously into the surrounding terrain; instead, they stand in dramatic contrast to the country’s topography. Embracing their urban imperfection, they stake their claim to a patch of land and announce, unapologetically, a human presence in an otherwise untamed world.
Portier’s photographic series ‘Houses of Patagonia’ becomes the visual mediator between the two worlds of El Chaltén—between the urban and the natural, between the indomitable landscape and the civilized world. Connecting the complex topography of Patagonia with its urban conditions, the almost surreal images encourage a fascinating contemplation of architecture’s successful attempts to tame—or at least coexist with—the insurmountable power of nature.