EseColectivo is an architecture studio formed by Belén Argudo, José de la Torre, Santiago Granda and Pablo Silva based in Quito, Ecuador. Their interests are focused on experimentation with alternative building materials, with an emphasis on technologies and logic. In their design process, they seek to reconcile low-impact sustainable strategies with the specific needs and constraints of each project, so that their results are heterogeneous and differ in the type of methodological and technical approach.
The experience of this team has not only been built from their works such as The Endemic House and House in a Corridor, but also through collaborative practices with architecture studios, cultural managers and related projects at local and international level, leading to the development of initiatives closer to architectural documentation, research and dissemination. Consequently, they created "La Parleta" - the first architecture podcast in Ecuador.
Selected by ArchDaily as one of the New Practices of 2021, we conducted the following interview to tell us more in detail about all their inspirations, motivations, work processes and upcoming projects.
Fabian Dejtiar (FD): I understand that your projects aim to be highly efficient and limit themselves to what is strictly necessary. We see this in your works from The Endemic House and House in a Corridor to small-scale projects, such as Urban Greenhouse Rehearsal or the interventions in the Catapult House. What inspired you to follow this path of making architecture?
EseColectivo (EC): We believe that this path is built on two motivations. On the one hand, the recognition of a local reality, which has concrete limitations and advantages, and the urgent need for an architecture that corresponds to it. The search for efficiency and the careful management of resources is the way we have found to make our profession coherent in Ecuador. We work in a country, like most of Latin America, with a lot of poverty, informality and generally untidy management of architecture and cities. For this reason, the minimum we set ourselves in our practice is not to squander.
The other motivation comes from the generation of local architects who came before us (we still work around Al Borde Arquitectos or José María Saez) and who in their time were key in our formation. The notions of pride in the local, a certain kind of austerity and the need to structure a way of thinking and a commitment to our work, would not have had the power in us if we had not known their work and the respective vicissitudes they had to face.
FD: In this sense, what is your working process like? How do you work efficiently and with what is necessary?
EC: In our design process we seek to reconcile sustainable, low-impact strategies with the specific needs and limitations of each project. We are interested in experimenting on the basis of specific scenarios, because that is where we find opportunities to exploit that, ultimately, lead the process to the materialisation of the work. This explains why we have very different projects in both methodological and technical approaches. While in the Patch House we used a structure of earthen walls because it was necessary to make a considerable removal to leave the house on a single level (an explicit requirement of the client, an elderly woman); in the Retoños House we modulated and combined a wooden structure with raw industrial materials, with the aim of shortening construction times as much as possible.
In any case, we do not consider ours to be a static methodology. On the contrary, it is constantly being reconstructed on the basis of what we learn from each project. These experiences form the seam that binds our work together and allows us to see a certain correspondence between the searches of the first projects and those we are working on now. Perhaps this is evident in our work with wood: we started with simple porticoes, then we worked with load-bearing frames and now we are concentrating on transferring what we have learned with the material to a structure at height.
FD: La Parleta is a podcast that you developed to gather "reflections, anecdotes and experiences of great value around the profession". Can you tell us why this project was born and what you have learned from it?
EC: When we started La Parleta we wanted to share knowledge that is unjustly kept in anonymity. Looking back, we understood that we were a fortunate collective because we worked closely with incredible architects and had the opportunity to quickly start our own practice. This path left us with valuable learnings and experiences that were difficult to find in more conventional media because they were passed on by word of mouth and eventually lost. With La Parleta we wanted to rescue them and disseminate them in the same way they reached us. That's why we were always clear that we wanted to move away from academic or very formal schemes, La Parleta had to be an unpretentious, relaxed conversation, without fear of doubts or contradictions or unanswered questions.
From the beginning, making La Parleta has pushed us to structure criteria with other tools. Now we tell stories and that process involves another kind of exploration with people and with ourselves. Humour, fun, looseness is something that is more important in this project. We also learned that we have to be careful with the words we share, that we are responsible for better and for worse. In short, the mantra of La Parleta echoes the words of the Great Professor Francisco Ursúa: Play is a very serious thing.
FD: Recently, you were selected by ArchDaily among the New Practices of 2021. What kind of value do you see in this great diffusion? What future projection do you have?
EC: Somos conscientes de que ArchDaily es probablemente el sitio de difusión de arquitectura más reconocido del mundo. In that context, the initiative to include new practices from around the world works as an opportunity for recognition of the work but above all it allows us to broaden the vision of the possibilities of the profession. The projects of new practices are often refreshing and propositive and that is why we believe it is important to give them space in the large repository of references available online.
From our side, we are very happy that this dissemination allows others to appreciate our work and our quests as a collective. This is an opportunity to connect with more people and groups to work with and to share reflections and critiques that will help us to refine our practice.
FD: Finally, what new projects are you currently working on and what would you like to develop further?
EC: We are now concentrating on CentroCesal, a project of a much larger scale than we have handled in the past. It is a project that includes the first high-rise timber building in Ecuador. We are also working on smaller scale commissions that are in different stages of the design process. At the same time, we are concentrating on research and projects close to the periphery of practice, such as La Parleta or architectural photography. In the future, we are interested in getting involved with projects of other scales and programmes and expanding our radius of action towards projects with alternative management models.