INES Innovation Center, University of Bio Bio, Collao Campus, Concepción, Chile

Designed in 2013-2015 but completed only recently, the INES Innovation Center at University of the Bio Bio’s Collao Campus is just as impressive and delightful now as it was when originally conceived. The local, Concepción-based art and architecture studio Pezo von Ellrichshausen has created a wood structure that bears many of the hallmarks of the studio’s work, most notably the blocky exterior of the structure combined with the interconnectedness that dominates the interior.

Created for the University of Bio Bio (UBB – Universidad del Bio-Bio) for its main Concepción campus where engineering, business and architecture faculties operate, INES is part of the university’s innovation-focused activities.

The blocky five-storey cube is 2,000 square metres (21,528 sq.ft) in size and as it stands on its wooden base it looks as if it could be easily picked up, turned upside down, and it would still look exactly the same. It’s a friendly-looking structure with a slightly ancient, Japanese vibe.

Inside, the five floors are interconnected via a central circular void that diminishes in size fas you go higher from bottom to top. Leaning on the railings you can see all levels yet you are separated from them. Looking up, you see a target-like set of rings that ends with a round skylight. Each floor has its own set of working areas for meetings or individual work with flexible, light-weight furnishings for maximum flexibility. Having a clear goal, connecting disparate but relevant points and being flexible are all at the very heart of innovation. The INES structure seems to speak the language of innovation fluently. The sparse material and colour palette gives the building a solid, harmonious feel.

Pezo von Ellrichshausen is an art and architecture studio established in 2002 by Chilean Mauricio Pezo and Argentinian Sofia von Ellrichshausen. They were known initially for their innovative residential projects including their own first home and studio Cien House — a small, white, five-storey concrete tower on a plinth clinging to a mountainside in Lo Pequeñ, Concepción.

Their projects often start with full-colour paintings, renderings and sketches that inspire and instruct the designers and their clients. They are now known globally for their innovative work and, for example, their paintings of Cien House are in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Tuija Seipell

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