Monday, May 07, 2012

Book Review: 2G N.61

2G N.61: Pezo von Ellrichshausen
Editorial Gustavo Gili, 2011
Paperback, 176 pages

The latest issue of 2G Magazine features the work of Chilean architects Mauricio Pezo and Sofa von Ellrichshausen, aka Pezo von Ellrichshausen Architects.  Most of the 17 built and unbuilt projects included in N.61 are houses, of which two or three strands appear: thick walls, faceted walls, and labyrinths. These are explained by Juhani Pallasmaa in an introductory essay, but even without his astute text, these formal consistencies -- explorations of certain themes, particularly how the houses relate the their landscapes -- are fairly clear, owing in no small part to the issue's layout. Each project, even the apartment building and hotel, follow the same structure: site plan and descriptive text opposite an exploded section/axon, followed by floor plans, building sections, elevations, an enlarged building section, an enlarged cutaway axon, and of course photographs; unbuilt projects have less documentation, but they follow the same basic layout.

The thick-wall houses, apparently the early designs of the young firm, are simple volumes that include occupied service zones at the perimeter; therefore these houses have a strong centrality, even as they are complex spatially. A strong distinction between served and servant spaces are still found in the faceted designs, but the houses in this strand tend to be more urban than the thick-wall houses, meaning the forms respond to neighbors and other restrictions. Lastly, the labyrinth projects take the verticality of the first two strands and lay out houses across one floor. Respectively good examples of the thick wall, faceted, and labyrinth houses are the Cien House in Concepción (which graces the cover), the Wolf House in San Pedro, and the Parr House in Chiguayante. A number of projects at the back of the issue illustrate a fourth strand: the thick walls have morphed into exterior frames that are sometimes open, sometimes filled in, often around a courtyard. These projects are indicative of the duo's ability to make complex and rewarding spaces from simple geometries.

In addition to the documentation of projects and the essay by Juhani Pallasmaa, issue N.61 includes an essay by Rodrigo Pérez de Arce, "The music of forms," and a closing piece by Mauricio Pezo and Sofa von Ellrichshausen, "A number with eleven digits." What starts as an odd and slightly essay on a means of coding time, the last leads into an important aspect of the duo's work: Temporary works. A number of them are illustrated after their essay and labeled with their 11-digit numbers, allowing the reader to see instances of experience that enter into the architects' mindsets. The eleven digits may be a value-free manner of marking time, but in their hands it relates to a strong consideration of space, time, and movement in their work. The formal difference between the duo marking a circle in a field of grass by running around continuously and a cubic house with perimeter stairs may be great, but they are both rooted in space, time, and movement. Their residential work is an overlay of simple structures and complex patterns of movement, which enriches the lives of the residents.