In Chile, a very special project is being developed.
Eduardo Godoy, a design impresario who started his business in Chile in the 80′s, has always been an advocate for design and architecture in the country. In Chile, more than 40 schools of architecture have flooded the market, but the ever growing number of professionals has had a relatively small impact on Chilean cities. Seeing the almost infinite landscape of cookie cutter housing in the suburbs, Godoy asked himself: why not break this model into smaller pieces, each designed by a particular architect, each an opportunity for a young professional? With this in mind, and to foster the appreciation for architects, Eduardo and his team at Interdesign started a project called “Ochoalcubo” (Eight-Cubed). His original idea was to make 8 projects, with 8 buildings designed each by 8 architects, to create developments where the singularity of each piece was key, in order to demonstrate how the individuality of the architect could result in good architecture.
The project started with 8 houses on the Chilean coast. Four designed by renowned local architects, and four by young, up and coming (at that time) architects, including names that resonate in the international architecture scene, such as Mathias Klotz, Sebastian Irarrazaval, Cecilia Puga and Smiljan Radic. The result was eight houses where the architects had total freedom, including the interior decoration and furniture. The project became a laboratory of architecture, and young architects and students flocked to these houses to learn directly from them. Then ochoalcubo understood its role in an educational aspect. In Chile, not many people have the opportunity to travel, an important part of an architect’s training. So what if Godoy could invite the architects that were advancing the profession, the ones whose work you have to visit at some point of your life, and have their works here in Chile, at the end of the World, for the local architects and, especially, students to visit and learn from.
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A second stage for the project was then thought up, one which included a group of international architects, including Rick Joy, Guillaume Jullian, Kazuyo Sejima and Toyo Ito. From this stage, the White O house by Toyo Ito was the only one built so far.
And then something huge happened: an 8.8 earthquake hit Chile, and together with a following tsunami, took many cities to the ground. A year later, a similar earthquake shocked Japan, and the tsunami caused tremendous devastation. Both countries were united by a common catastrophe, where architecture was key for the relief and rebuilding efforts.
Seeing how Japan faced this catastrophe, Eduardo felt that something could be done to reunite both cultures, and asked his friend Toyo Ito to help him reunite a group of 8 outstanding Japanese architects to join him on ochoalcubo, together with 8 Chilean architects to design the next stages of the project.
After an intense trip to Tokyo, Eduardo and Toyo-san were able to convince some of Japan’s (and the world’s) most innovative architects: Kazuyo Sejima, Ryue Nishizawa, Kengo Kuma, Junga Ishigami, Sou Fujimoto, Atelier Bow-Wow, Akihisa Hirata and Onishi + Hyakuda. In Chile, a mix of young and established practices also accepted the invitation: Izquierdo Lehmann, Cristian Undurraga, Guillermo Acuña, Alejandro Aravena, Felipe Assadi, Pezo von Ellrichshausen, HLPS and Max Nuñez.
The idea was to design 8 + 8 houses in the Chilean coast, under a master plan designed by urbanist Roberto Moris. For this, the Japanese practices have been traveling to Chile, to visit a fantastic site overlooking the Pacific Ocean, close to Los Vilos, where the “8Quebradas” (Eight Cliffs) project will be located.
But the spirit of the project is to open architecture and give access to architects, so ochoalcubo has teamed with several architecture schools. Chilean students have had the chance not only to attend lectures by these Japanese architects, but also to participate in workshops led by them, even generating possibilities for the best students to do internships in Japan with these architects, having a once in a lifetime opportunity to expand their horizons. In this way,Eduardo’s dream of opening architecture and generating opportunities for young architects has come to reality, and paved the way for better architecture in Chile.
Ochoalcubo: Japan + Chile originally appeared on ArchDaily, the most visited architecture website on 15 May 2013.
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