Design Vanguard 2006

Assadi + Pulido make an architectural contribution to Chile’s evolving identity

Assadi + Pulido
Santiago, Chile

By Beth Broome

Chile is like an island in Latin America,” says Felipe Assadi, partner with his wife Francisca Pulido in their Santiago-based practice, Assadi + Pulido. Bounded by the Andes to the east, the Atacama Desert to the north, and the Pacific Ocean along its entire western edge, Chile is, indeed, geographically isolated. To many Chileans, the country—despite its long history—also feels “young,” like an island, culturally speaking. “The freedom of our practice is based in the fact that we do not have a strong tradition to deal with,” says Assadi.

“Chile is a place of opportunity,” adds Pulido. For many designers, the two explain, long apprenticeships, like those of European or American architects, are not prerequisites for establishing one’s own firm. Indeed, neither partner spent much time working for others. Assadi, who is from Santiago, set out on his own in 1999, just three years after completing his undergraduate studies in architecture at Finis Terrae University in Santiago, where he met Pulido, originally from Punta Arenas in the south. Before officially joining Assadi and forming their partnership earlier this year, Pulido taught and worked part-time for different offices, including Assadi’s. “There’s a lot to do here,” explains Assadi. “The country is in the process of creating an identity, and we are a part of this.”

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Pictured: Schmitz House; Photo courtesy Assadi + Pulido / Juan Purcell

For a young firm, Assadi + Pulido has produced a hefty portfolio of built work, mostly in Chile. “We are more of a geographical country,” says Assadi, referring to Chile’s great swaths of mountainous, arid, fertile, and coastal terrains. “Our work is always based in the landscape. Everything we make is new, because there are no references.” The three concepts that guide the practice, the partners say, are justeza, pertinencia, and equilibrio. A project must be appropriate within its context, relevant to a given moment and environment, and involve a balance between the architect and client.

In its short life, Assadi + Pulido has had ample opportunity to experiment with a variety of programs. Its projects range from a 250-seat theater to a fruit warehouse to a drive-through pick-up facility for items purchased online. However, it is their shared love for residential work that prompted the husband and wife to become working partners after seven years of marriage. With commercial jobs, Assadi explains, the bottom line is the bottom line. Without being bogged down by a house’s success as a commodity, the architects can focus on the weighty but rewarding responsibility of determining how design affects those living within it.

The Serrano House, for example, takes full advantage of its dramatic site in the Andean foothills. With part of its lower level built into the slope on which it sits, the house offers privacy from its neighbors. The rest of the lower floor, defined by steel columns and large glass windows, is almost transparent, making the upper level of concrete clad in Amazonian wood appear to levitate over the city below. The 20 x 20 House, on the other hand, quite literally admits and reflects the orchard it sits in.

Assadi + Pulido looks forward to increasing the scale of its work while maintaining a small, intimate office. The firm is currently designing a 25-story apartment building in Santiago and a nine-story office building in Valparaiso. “We have an internal law,” says Assadi, “that every project we make has to be an opportunity to do even better things.”

Originally printed in the December 2006 issue of Architectural Record.
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Founded: 1999

Design staff: 3

Principals: Felipe Assadi and Francisca Pulido

Education: Assadi: Universidad Católica de Chile, M.Arch., 2006; Universidad Finis Terrae, Chile, B.A., 1996; Pulido: Universidad Finis Terrae, B.A., 1996

Work history: Assadi: Academic—Andrés Bello University, Santiago, 1999–present; Pulido: Academic—Andrés Bello University, 2003–present; Universidad Finis Terrae, Chile, 1997–2003

Key completed projects: O2 House, Rancagua, Chile, 2006; Deck House, Maitencillo, Puchuncaví, Chile, 2006; Serrano House, Santiago, 2006; Giovo House, Santiago, 2006; Russo Club, Talca, Chile, 2005; 20 x 20 House, Santiago, 2005; Teatro del Parque, Santiago, 2004; Raveau House, Santiago, 2003; Arauco Express, Santiago, 2001; Schmitz House, Calera de Tango, Santiago, 2001

Key current projects: Verbo Divino School, first phase, Santiago, 2006; García House, Santiago, 2006; Lorenzini House, Santiago, 2006; FdR House, Santiago, 2007