Watching : Pezo von Ellrichshausen’s Lecture

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This blog is a reading around the lecture by Pezo von Ellrichshausen (An art architecture studio founded in 2002 by Mauricio Pezo and Sofia Von Ellrichshausen. They live and work in Southern Chilean city of Concepcion) This lecture was  recorded on February 15, 2016 in Columbia GSAAP.

I am conscious and aware the of the value of a good lecture watched online, especially a  thought provoking like the one here. My exposure of listening to people who are involved in architecture (academics and practice) outside my college in Mysore was very limited. I remember the first lecture I heard was in third year when I went to student event in Belgaum. My access to video lectures happened in a very minimal way only in the last 2 years of the undergraduate program. A habit very helpful in the exposure to ideas till today. With the ubiquity of the information available, I have a substantial regard for these online lectures. They are wonderful pockets of knowledge. Like this lecture by Pezo Von Ellrichshausen. I was drawn to their work for their crisp drawings and clean aesthetics. Especially the ‘sliced axonometric’. I was showing them as references for students. Even the plans and sections have impeccable clarity. So I was curious to know their process. The drawings always reveal the intention of the process. Prof. Doshi used to say in the design studio at CEPT, that one could sense the personality of the student by the way he or she draws.


It was liberating to hear them talk about how only few fundamental things informs their design. The keyword here is a ‘self referential’ object. Initially I assumed them to be European, as they have a rational clean-box approach. This practice is based in Chile, a developing country like us. Not to say that this clean-box aesthetics belongs only to developed countries. But the lecture throws a very different perspective. There are internal spatial rules, which informs the formation of space in their practice. This process does not borrow any other clues (context, landscape, etc) till a very late stage and only if needed. I find this very provocative in a subdued way. It has become a norm to place  architecture inside the narratives of social, political and cultural contexts, which are also very crucial. But it sometimes fail to inform the fundamentals of space making. I admired their approach to keep the process fundamental and focussed, which is very difficult. In their monograph ‘Naive Intentions’ they mention “We do not only believe that there is no possible work of art without an institutionalized system that validates it but also that only a small percentage of that work has the real scope to interrogate the very institution that defines it”

The following two images and interview is an part extract from their interview with Designboom  on the exhibit they produced for the second edition of Chicago Architecture Biennale – 2017 (a monumental grid of 729 framed watercolor studies on the wall)


designboom (DB): can you talk a bit about what you are presenting for this year’s chicago architecture biennial?

sofia von ellrichshausen (SVE): it is a 3.5m height by 20m long polyptych composed by 729 individual paintings, of watercolors on paper, organized on a seemingly random chromatic and formal arrangement. what appears to be an arbitrary array of minor variations is in fact the systematic erosion of an ideal object, of an imaginary building, based on a prescribed set of rules. this is the fourth iteration of an ongoing series we have entitled ‘finite format’. it is a rather personal enquiry about the possibilities of a sort of ‘hand made’ formal determination in architecture. through a limited number of factors and dimensions we are studying how proportion is crucial for the understanding of character, disposition and identity of an architectonic piece. this comes from our interest in replacing the very notion of form by format. since it is a general outline, or a field of action defined by size and direction, we believe a format contains fundamental spatial attributes of a building.
DB: how did you respond to the overall theme of ‘make new history’?
mauricio pezo (MP): since we never refer to anything beyond the building itself, and somehow assuming a tautological exercise, we are reading history as a wide source of knowledge. in our hypothetical approach, we are speculating with a potential idea of beginning, of the very moment in which history begins. of course, we are reading the call in conceptual terms, assuming history as a constructed fiction. we are indeed interested in basic and familiar forms.

Their spatial investigation reminded me of the formal operations of Sol Lewitt. Both the process looks at systems in which the changing variables creates the the specificity of the form. Lewitt says “ Irrational thoughts should be followed absolutely and logically” I could relate to the investigation carried by Pezo Von to be in this direction with a mathematical precision to these moves. Their process is explicit in this execise they deviced where they have to rearrange a set of wooden blocks in different contexts with a simple set of rules. This spatial exploration is “autonomous by definition, contextual by necessity”, a brilliant reference of their process too.

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Cien House (2009-2011) is one of my favourite projects. This is the project which introduced me to their work. Internet is such a place, where one can go to the depths of enquiry as much as required. But its difficult to sieve and remember the good ones. Actually this blog entry is an attempt to do that. Trying to hold the reference for a bit longer without swaying into the next rush of images from Archdaily or Instagram


All Cien House images are from Archdaily 
The  images of exercises with wood are screen shots from the Youtube lecture (Link)