Architect Felipe Escudero is bringing a futuristic style to luxury homes in Ecuador.
With an imaginative, science fiction edge, he has designed luxury homes, apartment buildings, offices and more, as the principal of Felipe Escudero Studio in the Ecuadorian capital of Quito. The goal is to use design to bring “the human experience to the urban landscape,” he said, but it’s much more than that.
Mr. Escudero, 38, previously worked alongside British architect Thomas Heatherwick from 2013 to 2014 at Heatherwick Studio in London, and then came into the spotlight for his innovative home designs that are transforming South American architecture. He has created homes from concrete, uses spaceship-like structures for buildings and always incorporates plants in unconventional ways, whether its hanging vines from the ceiling or lining up cacti in grid-like patterns.
More: An Organized Space Can Translate to Luxury, Says California Closets Executive
With recent zoning laws making way for more modern architecture in Ecuador, Mr. Escudero is building projects that hope to put the country on the map as a luxury destination. His style is helping to shape Quito as an architectural, as well as sustainable, destination. Some of his upcoming projects include Foresta, an open concept restaurant by chef Rodrigo Pacheo opening this summer, and the Quito Contemporary Art Museum, set tol be completed in January 2023, which he is restoring and making modern additions to.
Mr. Escudero spoke to Mansion Global about sustainable design using local materials, building the Quito skyline, and his favorite design quote.
MG: How did you get into architecture?
Felipe Escudero: When I was a teenager, my parents had a friend who is an architect who worked in a style that was minimalist and futuristic, his name was Oscar Niemeyer and he greatly influenced me. He introduced me to designers like Le Corbusier and other architects, and my passion for it started to grow. I studied at Georgia Tech for two years and studied in Europe—in Rome, Paris and Berlin—and then got a job in New York, then got a job offer from MAD Architects in Beijing, and I was only 24.
More: In New York City, Views Are Still the Most Coveted Amenity, Says SERHANT Agent
MG: Why did you return to Ecuador as an architect and why are you based in Quito?
FE: For the workers and materials, in how we use concrete, for example. We also use a lot of earth materials, too. And the way labor is organized in Ecuador, it allows for a different cultural system. Sustainability is different here. It’s a different process for getting certifications for sustainable buildings. We focus on passive building systems, and designing homes that are oriented and have a shape allowing for natural sunlight and air circulation. The shapes that we use in design, we reuse water and use solar panels, too.
MG: What do we need to know about the Ecuador luxury market?
FE: It has been growing over the past 20 years, since the economy has stabilized and globalization has helped Ecuadorian home owners see what’s out there, what they can take advantage of locally. The country also recently introduced solar panels on a lot of residential buildings and homes. With the clients I have, they want something unique and special, and we can provide that here. It isn’t mainly in the capital but in the smaller city of Guayaquil, where the economy is just as big as Quito, and the third largest city Calceta, which is interested in growth of the luxury market.
More: Property Managers and Developers Face New Resident Needs Amid the Pandemic, Says Gotham General Manager
MG: What are the styles of the luxury homes like, design wise?
FE: In terms of style, there’s a mix of classical with modern design. You can get results here you can’t get anywhere else—like the topography, the landscape has hills and mountains. You do different things as an architect than what you would do with a flat space. When clients call me, they could buy a sculpture in New York, but they want something specific from Ecuador.
MG: What was the concept behind your Space Earth project?
FE: This project is in Cuenca, it’s for a digital marketing agency that wanted to have a cutting edge image. There is a healthy cuisine restaurant on the main floor and a photography studio on the second floor. The second-floor windows are opaque white, allowing natural light to come in, while you can still have this feeling of a futuristic warehouse. We always want to use wellness and nature in our projects, so we hung plants from the ceiling, and lined up plants outside in a grid-like layout. It’s a controlled way of using nature.
More: Nobody Wants an Open Kitchen, Says Washington, D.C. Architect
MG: Are you influenced by science fiction or futurism, as a design style?
FE: I’ve always been interested in the future, watch sci-fi films, and read about technology, 50 years from now. But I also love nature, so I fuse them both. I love the design of spaceships, organic shapes, and the design of extraterrestrials, and how they communicate in sci-fi films. A lot of people say my work looks retro futuristic, but it’s just interpreted that way.
MG: What recent zoning laws have made room for modern architecture to enter Ecuador. Are these new building projects hoping to put the country on the map as a luxury destination?
FE: Yes, it came with the wave of economic development roughly 15 years ago, along with the rise of solar panels here and housing development, in general. The laws had to change. Now, higher buildings are allowed to be built, over 40 stories, which was the previous limit. There are no style restrictions, but I think developers are encouraged to create more sustainable buildings, and how they relate to each other and the community. Creating public spaces in buildings is also strongly encouraged.
MG: What helped inspire the modern, futuristic style of luxury buildings we see in Ecuador?
FE: When Bjarke Ingels Group designed their first project in not only Ecuador, but all of South America, the IQON residential tower in 2018 in Quito, it got people thinking about Ecuador as a design destination, it helps culturally. The government is working to invite newcomers who are looking to invest, too. In general, Latin American constructions happen fast. In some way, they’re always changing. My design for the Magnolia House in Los Arrayanes, where the weather is better than it is in Quito, is a good example because there’s more room for sprawling luxury properties here. It’s great for a luxury destination.
MG: What is your personal definition of luxury?
FE: I love that question. I think luxury is something that goes beyond necessity. To me, it adds value to your experience. With food, you can make it to survive, or with an amazing ingredient, have it well-planned and present it on a plate that is going to give a heightened experience. That can apply to everything from food to design and travel. Heightening experiences. When it comes to design, luxury design is attention to detail. It’s going beyond your traditional idea of the discipline. A building that not only functions well, but smells and looks good, too.
More: Mortgage Banker Predicts the Seller’s Market in the U.S. Isn’t Changing Anytime Soon
MG: What design quote do you live by?
FE: Oscar Niemeyer is my favorite designer because he was able to synthesize all the parameters of home design into a simple solution. He solved problems through simple design. He has a quote where he says, “We need fantasy to survive.” I like this idea, as humans, we must think beyond necessity and expand our minds through fantasy.
MG: What do you have upcoming next?
FE: A project in Santuario, three residential towers and a new tower designed with the same client. We’re so excited. We’re about to start our design in the NFT world, too. We’re also excited to go international, too.
Click to read more luxury real estate professionals share their insights