ARCHITECTURE BEFORE ARCHITECTUREProfile

by Felipe Escudero, AADRL M.Arch 2013

22 April 2016
Quito, Ecuador

 

Since starting a practice in Quito, Ecuador, my work has focused on finding the specificities of the region through the development of commissioned projects. I have tried to apply what architects traditionally call ´re-writing the agenda´ so that every project, no matter how uninteresting it seemed at the beginning, took a turn towards finding opportunities in the local area. Being an emerging practice that did not have the privilege of saying no to projects has helped me stay afloat economically, but it also opened up the possibilities of discovering my own architectural drives. The concept, or the thing that drives each project started to organically appear from culture, history, manufacturing techniques, you name it…

 

Currently, one of my favourite inspirations is understanding the geographical conditions. Quito, as with many other Andean cities, is set on a high valley 2,800m above sea level. Surrounded on both western and eastern sides by high mountains of up to 5,000m, the city has grown on top of spectacularly irregular grounds, extending longitudinally to its northern and southern ends. In other words, Quito is a very long bowl high up in the mountains.

 

Clover House Model Image credit: Felipe Escudero

Clover House Model
Image credit: Felipe Escudero

These types of conditions have helped me to come up with solutions like the Clover House, a low-cost residence located 3,600m above sea level where temperatures are constantly low. One continuous wall divides the house into volumes so that all the spaces receive natural sunlight throughout the day. The result is one concrete wall that shapes the interior spaces as much as the exterior ones.

 

A photograph of Clover House Image credit: Felipe Escudero

A photograph of Clover House
Image credit: Felipe Escudero

Addition to the Museum Casa del Alabado Image credit: Kari Barragan

The roof system at the Museum Casa del Alabado
Image credit: Kari Barragan

Being equidistant to the earth’s poles and being at the farthest point from the centre of the earth, Quito is hit almost perpendicularly by strong rays of sunlight. The first addition I did to the Alabado Museum of Pre-Columbian Art takes advantage of this particularity and provides the exhibition space with diffused natural light throughout the day.  Since Pre-Columbian objects were made to be observed under sunlight, the project’s clients wanted to simulate this experience while having the flexibility of darkening the room. So we designed a roof system that incorporates natural sunlight, automatic curtains, and artificial ambient lights and spotlights while eliminating fixtures that are traditionally a distraction in exhibition spaces.

 

Addition to the Museum Casa del Alabado Image credit: Kari Barragan

Addition to the Museum Casa del Alabado
Image credit: Kari Barragan

Other projects have taken inspiration from more specific urban elements like the use of escalinatas (public staircases decorated with vegetation, common in areas of steep slopes) on a multi-residential project. Or the use of trees and water fountains as central elements of inner courtyards led to the design of the ‘Tree’: a structure that provides a courtyard in the historical centre with climatic conditions to have events while maintaining the feeling of openness that the traditional courtyard is known for. The structure in the form of branches also references the Pre-Columbian belief that trees were the connection between different worlds.

I have started to gain particular interest in these type of projects because they acquire meaning beyond their spatial or material qualities. I have noticed that people develop a special relationship with them when they can relate culturally. Projects become more popular. In particular, I have enjoyed hearing nicknames people have given to my projects like ‘the tooth’ to the Movement sculpture, ‘the stockings’ to the Tower A, or ‘the donut’ to the Museum’s Reserve.

Tower A Elevations Drawing credit: Felipe Escudero

Tower A Elevations
Drawing credit: Felipe Escudero

As an exercise to satisfy my curiosity towards understanding the way people feel about architectural and urban space, I am about to finish a book that compiles this work. The aim is to strip the content away from the intricacies of manufacturing these non-standard geometries and to reach a broader audience of non-architects, children, older people. People without the academic luggage of art or architecture. People that can react to this work in the most primitive way, with their feelings.

 

Storage System for the Museum Casa del Alabado Image credit: Felipe Escudero

Storage System for the Museum Casa del Alabado
Image credit: Felipe Escudero

For more information:

Visit Felipe Escudero’s website

Read about Clover House on Dezeen

See Clover House in the Phaidon Atlas

Felipe Escudero on Past Shock

Felipe Escudero’s Wishbone Table

Felipe Escudero on AA Conversations