Architect duo Mauricio Pezo and Sofia von Ellrichshausen built this seven-storey concrete tower in the Chilean countryside to house their own living quarters as well as a studio for their firm (photos by Cristobal Palma + movie).
Named Casa Cien, the building was designed by Pezo Von Ellrichshausen to accommodate both the needs of their small architectural practice and their home, within a tower-like structure that nestles into the surrounding landscape.
The two-storey base of the structure is partly submerged into the hillside, creating a large basement workshop and a ground-floor of living spaces. A five-storey tower rises up from its centre, creating a mixture of domestic rooms and work studios that are each connected by different staircases.
"Decisive coincidences such as the amount of steps on a hill path nearby, or the statue of an old cypress, or even the whole number of the elevation above sea level that defines the podium could be used to explain the format of this building's silhouette," explained the architects.
Constructed from concrete, Casa Cien is coated with layers of concrete aggregate that give a rough texture to the exterior. Square windows of different sizes puncture these walls, with glazing recessed to give a sense of thickness.
A simple rectilinear grid defines the layout of rooms inside the building – an approach that Pezo Von Ellrichshausen has used in various projects, including the symmetrical Casa Pezo in Spain.
"Within two unified formats, an extended floor plan and a concentrated one, we organise the same unit 12 times: a square figure asymmetrically divided into four rooms," said the architects.
The first of two spiralling wooden staircases leads up from the main living area to lounge and bedroom spaces on the two levels above.
The second staircase leads up from the podium to the three uppermost floors, where studios and meeting rooms accommodate between four and six employees. Gaps in the floor plates offer unexpected views above and below.
Timber panels line the insides of walls and have been painted white throughout. The architects also added built-in furniture to fit with the exact proportions of the space.
Photography is by Cristobal Palma, apart from where otherwise indicated.
Here's a project description from Pezo von Ellrichshausen:
Decisive coincidences such as the amount of steps on a hill path nearby, or the statue of an old cypress that reminds those described by Walter Pater, or even the whole number of the elevation above sea level that defines the podium could be used to explain the format of this building's silhouette.
But the reasons that shape a house are always others; always the same ones. Within two unified formats, an extended floor plan and a concentrated one, we organise the same unit twelve times: a square figure asymmetrically divided into four rooms.
Sometimes central, others lateral, or even in a diagonal disposition, each unit establishes a different relation amongst the rooms. Potentially, the lower rooms will be occupied with the heavy duties of a workshop. The upper rooms with the almost immaterial routines of the everyday trades. Trapped between these two factual worlds the domestic life rests protected; a large room for the daily use and a couple of bedrooms piled on it for the night.
The main room steps down towards the west. By maintaining the lintels at one defined horizon, the progressive sequence of frames makes the perception of its depth relative. Entering the main room is equivalent to diving under the platform defined by the whole number (100).
You reach the studio by facing a mirror that shows in the inside what lies across the street. Entering the tower is a kind of blindness. Here, the cypress turned into steps locks into a continuous spiral that slowly offers the sight back while ascending.
The construction is a regular and monolithic layering of concrete with exposed aggregate. In the interior the walls are wrapped by surfaces of painted wood, almost without thickness and barely interrupted by the galvanised steel frames that hold the windows in place.
Location: Concepcion, Chile
Architects: Mauricio Pezo, Sofia von Ellrichshausen
Collaborators: Bernhard Maurer, Eleonora Bassi, Valeria Farfan, Michael Godden
Client: Pezo von Ellrichshausen Ltda.
Builder: Ricardo Ballesta
Structure: Patricio Bonelli
Building services: Marcelo Valenzuela, Jaime Tatter
Plot surface: 530 m2
Built surface: 430 m2
Sign up for a daily roundup
of all our stories