Ensamble Studio on building flexible, stackable spaces and working with nature

"When we look at nature we want to learn from it, we want to build with it."

In their manifesto, Spanish architects Antón García-Abril and Débora Mesa state: "Our work has no pigeonholes, no barriers. We design the shadow to obtain spaces of light and we can build with heavy elements to obtain weightless and transparent spaces. We go from stressed structures to dense structures, from the small scale of the house to the bigger scale of the city, from reordered nature to prefabricated systems."

Nowhere was this clearer than when the two architects took to the Design Indaba 2018 conference stage to speak about their work, which is a balance between practice, education and research.

In taking the audience through some of their projects, including their homes in Spain (Hemeroscopium House) and Boston (Cyclopean House), it is clear that the two not only work around their barriers, but they are also reintrepreting the the language around architecture as they go. 

García-Abril explains that they are able to do this because they test out different material in the lab at MIT and then apply them in real world projects like in their homes.

“This is the power with design. Design starts with a spark of creativity or intuition. Sometimes a dream, could be a desire but it’s extended to the production, to the capability, to the designer to embed this into a human need without losing any of the spiritual or human benefits that our work produces in society,” he says.

With the Cyclopean house, which was assembled in seven days using prefabricated material, they managed to transform a small space in Boston into an open plan, two-story residential unit.

By getting rid of any mass and heavy materials they were able to make the construction as lightweight as possible for shipment.

The architects bring an artist's sensibility to architecture, and work with nature to produce interesting work. As Mesa explains: "When we look at nature we want to learn from it, we want to build with it."

Design Indaba 2018 Conference Talks are presented in partnership with Liberty.  

More talks from Design Indaba 2018:

A gonzo approach to design with Studio Swine

When a natural disaster occurred in Chile, Alejandro Aravena and his team set out to rebuild the city

The psychological effects of sound with Nicolás Kisic Aguirre