“We are an architecture studio, and we’re not an architecture studio,” says Santiago Vaca Guzman, a founding partner of Oficios Asociados (Associated Trades) in Buenos Aires.
Gathered in a bright warehouse where the firm’s new nerve center is currently under construction, Vaca Guzman and his two partners feel equally comfortable sketching ideas at the drawing board or welding iron bars on the workshop floor. Vaca Guzman continues:
Anything that can be made in the workshop is made here, because we believe that defines our identity.
A trained psychologist and self-taught metalworker, he started the hybrid practice with two architect friends—Esteban Rodriguez and Manuel Nesta—who shared the same vision.
That desire to take complete control over all aspects of the architectural process, from concept to construction, sets Associated Trades apart from many conventional studios who outsource the task of realizing their ideas to separate building companies.
From new residences to renovations, art pieces and bespoke furniture, the firm maintains a broad portfolio of projects—brought together by the philosophy of uniting form and function as closely as possible, along with a deep, organic crossover between design, production and installation.
At an expansive carpentry workshop on the outskirts of Buenos Aires, the minimalist iron structure allows a maximum amount of light to enter through glass windows that occupy almost the entire wall surface. And the walls themselves actually slide back and forth, becoming huge doors which make it easy to bring in heavy machinery and materials, as well as ventilate the space.
Back in the cramped central zones of Argentina’s capital, the firm is often called upon to find creative ways of gaining extra square feet. For example, at a plush duplex apartment in trendy Palermo, they are remodeling a terrace area, building a new balcony with separate sections made from concrete and iron.
The iron grill is both solid enough to stand on and open enough to let more light enter the building from above, while the concrete platform can accommodate tables and chairs—perfectly placed to enjoy a panoramic view of the neighborhood.
Esteban Rodriguez told ArchiExpo e-Magazine that his main idea was to create “a different relationship between interior and exterior” which “flows in a harmonious way.” As well as physically broadening the space by knocking down walls, glass facades will be installed to create a feeling of greater openness.
The seamless juxtaposition of iron, wood and glass has become a hallmark for Associated Trades—along with a minimal aesthetic which evokes the simple lines of the renowned Eames House in California.
As a former studio architect who rediscovered his love for bricks and mortar, Manuel Nesta believes technology has become a distraction to many of his colleagues.
People want to recreate their renders, even though some designs don’t really have a technical base. That means there is a chasm of dissatisfaction with the finished building, which don’t end up looking as good as those images.