Cazú Zegers

Constructing a new architectonic language

The renowned Chilean architect has established a vanguard discourse which, truth be told, breaks somewhat away from the local architectonic scene.  Why?  She incorporates poetry as a novel ingredient when it comes to rethinking architecture.

Some claim that architecture in itself is an expression of art.  A discipline which strives to pay an homage to beauty through installations.  From a building it is possible to establish a world vision, or more ambitious yet, mold the course of history.

Considering architecture from this viewpoint, the Chilean architect María del Carmen Zegers García, more commonly known as Cazú Zegers, has established a vanguard discourse which, truth be told, breaks somewhat away from the local architectonic scene.  Why?  She incorporates poetry as a novel ingredient in her pursuit of new architectonic forms.

In the 80’s, she travelled the extensive kilometers of the Chilean territory by motorbike.  It was this experience which would mark her profoundly, as the travels widened her horizons to encompass the great diversity of landscapes, cultures and ways of rethinking architecture.

What’s more, the journey continued.  Ecuador, Panama, Guatemala, Tierra del Fuego, the Andean highlands, Pacific and Caribbean islands, Mexico, USA, Europe, India, Nepal, Japan and China are just some of the locations in which she soaked up new ideas and knowledge, in order to break away from the traditional architectonical molds.

A unique stamp

Between 1987 and 1988, the renowned Chilean architect worked and studied in New York before returning to Chile and opening her studio in 1990.  Three years later she won the Gran Premio Latinoamericano de Arquitectura (Grand Prize in Latin American Architecture) in the Buenos Aires Biennale for the Casa Cala.

Since then, Zegers has reflected upon the Chilean identity, through her designs primarily centered on housing in which wood is worked using ancestral techniques and recycling vernacular architecture (of domestic, native or indigenous character).

One of her most emblematic and award-winning works is the Hotel Tierra Patagonia (Hotel del Viento), where she shapes a contemporary language through the curved wood in this large scale construction.  As a counterpart to the Hotel del Viento, a second hotel located in the heart of Santiago’s old town, Hotel Magnolia, has been recently awarded the 2017 Gran Prix Versalles.  Magnolia explores recycling and patrimonial restoration by intervening in a house protected by historical conservation to which they added 3 floors.

Accordingly, Cazú Zegers defines her own architectonic style: “With Casa Cala, I understood that a curve is a straight line which acquires velocity and curves due to tension.  From this starting point my architecture incorporates curves, as dynamic architecture is of interest to me.  Static, gravitational architecture does not capture my attention.  I’m attracted to velocity, lightness and the themes presented by Ítalo Calvino in his Six Memos for the Next Millennium: lightness, quickness, exactitude, visibility, multiplicity, consistency”.

Words which define the trend being set by Zegers who is considered one of the 20 best female architects in the world, according to World Architecture magazine (2008).  An acknowledgement which was reaffirmed by her technical second place when she was a finalist for the 2016 ARCVISION prize, considered to be the female Pritzker.