Gary and I were fortunate to meet with Patricio Falconi at Pakakuna Gardens while he was inspecting the progress of construction. In my opinion, Falconi's work as an Ecuador architect is unparalleled.
He discussed his long friendship with the owners of Pakakuna Gardens, his work style and the factors that molded his choices of architectural design. Patricio Falconi and Claus and Maria Elena Egger have a relationship that spans almost three decades. Click here for the Egger's personal story.
Twenty-eight years ago when Falconi was a young, aspiring architect of twenty six, the Eggers hired him to build their country house on 36 hectares of land. Building their large house was his second architectural project.
"When I first saw the land, it was very hard, compacted earth, so hard it was very difficult to get a shovel into it. There were several places we could have chosen for the location of the house."
"The spot we finally settled upon is perfect."
"I laid the first stone for the house and Maria Elena planted the first plant." This is the front door and entry of the original house.
"I love this style of construction," he told us. "When I was first married, my father gave me an old bodega (storage building). It had wooden floors, brick walls and tejas (terra cotta tile roof). I made it into a small house and it was my studio for twenty-three years.
"A major influence on my life was my father. I traveled all over Ecuador with him and got to know the many styles of architecture in this country. It's a mix of styles--mestizo, Spanish and indigenous.
"My architectural style is very mixed, too. Foreigners loved portales, or porches, and often asked for them. As a result of their influence, my style is international.
"When I first began working as an architect, my clients were mainly foreigners because Ecuadorians didn't like the style of house I wanted to build. The reason for this was a social problem. Ecuador has an imported culture that comes mainly from Spain.
"Ecuadorians destroyed many of the old-style houses, the colonial ones and their own, and built cement houses instead. They still prefer concrete as a building material.
"My practice was good for many years as Ecuadorians began to appreciate the country houses I was building. I mostly worked within my own social class. When other architects began to use my style, it was no longer that exclusive.
"Ecuadorians wanted something distinctive and turned more to modern architecture. My practice began to slow down.
"Now I am building country houses again. The difference is that this time people live in them as primary homes, not just vacation homes.
"I'm more selective now in the projects I choose to build. I take on those projects that I really want to do—Hotel San Luiz in Cayambe, Luna Runtun in Banos.
"I am never quite finished with my projects. I return to them and make refinements, much as an artist does with a piece of art."
Patricio Falconi always thought he'd be a race car driver or a pilot, but friends would remind him that he was always drawing houses in class. When he built his own first home, he met an indigenous maestro.
"He taught me everything I know about construction. He's now 65 years old and he still works with me. He was the maestro on the Egger's first house in Pakakuna Gardens.
"Claus called me five years ago and shared his dream for Pakakuna. Because his land is rural, the local municipality told him he could only build one house on each five hectares.
"Claus was persistent. He went to the municipality every week. He drew up an ordinance with the alcalde (mayor) agreeing to only build a certain style and size of house and to place the houses closer together to preserve most of the green spaces. He also agreed to help the older poor in Checa by building a medical health facility for them."
Says Falconi, "All over Ecuador—in Loja, Cotacachi, Vilcabamba—I've observed the kinds of foreigners who are coming to Ecuador. They are often in their sixties—those who lived through the revolutions in the 1960's—revolutions in music, sex, alcohol, drugs, freedom and lifestyle.
"Now those of that '60's generation are coming to Ecuador to recapture what they gained and then lost in the United States.
"They are looking for that freedom again, that better quality of life. And they are finding it in Ecuador.
"My goal with Pakakuna Gardens is to make something very creative and very natural. Maria Elena wants plants, not concrete. She and Claus intend to live out their lives here.
Foyer of new Egger home
"But they didn't want to repeat the same architectural style we used in the original house. Instead they chose an updated country style that will be much easier to maintain. There's less wood in the new house and it's mainly just decorative, so there's less upkeep to worry about."
The newer style has great expanses of windows, tall ceilings and natural materials. It is luminous with light. As you can see, the new Egger house is the perfect foil for the owners' plants, balanced by the dark solidity of rough-hewn eucalyptus beams.
Patricio Falconi, the outstanding Ecuador architect, and Claus and Maria Elena Egger, a very giving entrepreneurial couple, are embarking upon a new phase in their relationship. This one is unfolding on a grand scale, with new designs, public buildings and a holistic approach to life.
Picture source: www.patriciofalconi.com
Beautifully designed and constructed villas and homes are rising among the palms and orchids, connected by stone pathways and intricate water features. Something entirely new is being born as Pakakuna Gardens changes from a private estate into an international community.
What will not change are the gardens, lots and lots of gardens, with running water and pools caressing the land throughout the development.
And from the evidence, the relationship between Falconi and the Eggers will also endure for many more years to come as they continue to create beauty and sustainability in Ecuador.