In Chile, Houses as Extreme as the Landscape

March 19, 2019 – T Magazine (Cover story)

AT THE EDGE of Concepción, a small city in southern Chile, a 60-foot tower stands on a hill, a stark concrete rectangle among eucalyptus and pine. Set at the end of a pockmarked road that threads between unassuming two-story homes, the tower looms over the wooded hillside. Square windows of various sizes puncture the walls like the black spaces in a crossword puzzle. All right angles and hard geometries, the building could be a silo or a sentry tower looking south toward the Bio Bio, the river that, for 300 years, marked the border between the Spanish colony and the territories of the unconquered Mapuche peoples to the south. Instead, it is the home and studio of Mauricio Pezo, 45, and Sofía von Ellrichshausen, 42, whose firm, Pezo von Ellrichshausen, is part of a group of innovative Chilean architectural practices that is establishing a regional aesthetic, one that alludes to Brutalism while also respecting the country’s peculiar topography.

Pezo von Ellrichshausen’s Casa Cien, so named because it’s 100 meters (328 feet) above sea level, relies on a limited floor plan, repeating the same square divided by an asymmetrical cross in the seven stories of bedrooms and office space in the tower, which are stacked like an interlocking vertical puzzle. Narrow spiral staircases made from hand-carved blocks of Chilean cypress connect the tower to the kitchen and living room in the podium. The couple cast the exterior in reinforced concrete, then manually chipped away the outer layer in a process that Pezo, who spent his childhood two hours outside Concepción, describes as “aesthetic demolition.”

Read more in the New York Times, and in Spanish here.

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