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Making an entrance: the next generation of Brazilian architects

Gru.a de onde não se vê quando se está lauro rocha niemeyer niterói museum rio de janeiro architectural review brazil 1465

As opportunities for young architects remain scarce, emerging practices find various tactics to gain footing in an evermore diverse architectural scene

We are living in especially difficult times’, Diego Portas of Rio-based practice C+P asserts. ‘The ghost of the last dictatorship is repeatedly named.’ A familiar pall hangs in the air at the mention of political prospects for this generation of architects. Economic and political crisis has caused a regression of policies instated during redemocratisation, intended to mitigate the radical inequalities that beset the region – this has now evolved into what Pedro Varella of Gru.a calls a ‘hunt of the cultural’, referring to the targeted defunding of cultural institutions. The sparse state projects that do exist are chosen through bid proposals: a threat to civic, social and aesthetic virtues is posed on the one hand, as values of expediency and economy are held supreme; on the other, the drought mandates a proliferation of practical tactics, means of survival in a hostile environment.

Underlying most of these endeavours is a bed of commissions from family and friends; in what is repeatedly stressed as one of the most unequal societies in the world, the fact that many young practices rely on these connections to establish themselves is even more rarefying. Many also teach, but as Portas explains, the combination of practice with academia is strongly discouraged by the Brazilian education system. ‘One of the strongest barriers for an architectural culture here is the differentiated profiles in the formation of our architects’, he explains: architects are siloed into singular tracks, and the chance for critical development in public architecture is further limited.

‘The most urgent thing is to strengthen solidarity networks – to stick together, and to continue to work optimistically’

Whether as a result of this pressure to find alternative inroads into practice, or by a Postmodern profusion of varied and multiplying references, the work being done here is incredibly rich and heterogeneous. Some maintain a strong affinity with the ‘modern masters’ of the ’50s; this is not unique to Brazil, but is perhaps exaggerated by a void in the decades that followed. Varella explains that the dictatorship years were matched with a ‘lack of critical vision’ that resulted in a weakened Postmodernism. ‘I heard Angelo Bucci saying once’, recalls Luís Pompeo Martins of São Paulo studio 23 SUL, ‘that somehow we were forgotten here, disconnected from the rest of the world’.

Since redemocratisation, Brazil has been opening its borders. Latin American cultures of exchange are strengthening; relationships with Argentina and Paraguay are particularly felt in the work of C+P and Messina Rivas. The old separation between the Cariocas and Paulistas has stylistically dissolved, the reality far more muddied than a clear line across the coast. Some resonances remain; Rio-based Gru.a stress the continued significance of the school in São Paulo, as well as the lasting presence of Paulo Mendes da Rocha, still walking the streets.

As the ghost of the dictatorship circles the air over Brazil, Portas asserts that to go on, the most urgent thing is to strengthen solidarity networks – to stick together, and to continue to work optimistically.

 

C+P Arquitetura

Rodrigo Calvino and Diego Portas work on the basis of ‘invented opportunity’, working against the tide of adverse conditions for architectural practice. They started C+P in 2008, when they gained the chance to design and build the H Niterói Hotel – doing so with the argument that they could increase the proposed number of beds by 15 per cent. ‘We don’t talk to clients about our architectural interests; we try to use their language’, Portas explains. C+P talk numbers, maximising profits, implementing a strategy they call the ‘trojan horse’, in which intelligently considered architecture is smuggled in under the wing of the free market. The client for the hotel later called on C+P to evaluate how many beds could be worked into the conversion of a 19th-century house into a hostel. The result was Hostel Villa 25, completed in 2016; the conversion was added to by a new building at the back of the site. C+P were able to create a courtyard and dining area, stripping the function of the bedrooms back to focus on sleep, and drawing the living spaces into communal areas to emphasise the collective way of living evoked by the hostel as type. The hostel makes clear the weight C+P give to the section, as beds are lofted over corridors – this gesture also making reference to Paulo Mendes da Rocha’s Jaraguá building. The circulation is inverted to echo an Argentinian type, and windows hidden in plan are inspired by contemporary Japanese architecture: references abound, a densely critical attitude to design is in evidence.

Cp arquitetura hostel villa 25 © federico cairoli architectural review brazil 1465 01

Cp arquitetura hostel villa 25 © federico cairoli architectural review brazil 1465 01

Source: Federico Cairoli

Hostel Villa 25 by C+P Arquitetura

Cp arquitetura hostel villa 25 © federico cairoli architectural review brazil 1465 02

Cp arquitetura hostel villa 25 © federico cairoli architectural review brazil 1465 02

Source: Federico Cairoli

Cp arquitetura hostel villa 25 © federico cairoli architectural review brazil 1465

Cp arquitetura hostel villa 25 © federico cairoli architectural review brazil 1465

Source: Federico Cairoli

C + P Arquitetura drawing

C + P Arquitetura drawing

Click to download

 

Gru.a

Akin to installation art, Gru.a’s ‘short-term architectures’ integrate research and practice, finding transversal linkages between the two; lines of influence that permeate their ethos to make sturdy roots in the contexts of their delicate interventions. ‘We have a particular interest in tectonic models of construction’, they explain, ‘that is, they operate by a logic of mounting and fitting.’ They find the lightness of this mechanism pertinent to the climate, with parallels in constructive cultures tracing all along the equatorial line. One example is found running between DAT, a research project undertaken with fellow Rio de Janeiro group OCO Projetos, and a 2018 installation A praia e o Tempo (the beach and the weather). DAT constituted Gru.a’s contribution to the Brazilian pavilion at the 2018 Venice Biennale, examining operations of cutting, filling and boring (desmontes, aterros e túneis) in Rio’s urban fabric; ruptures performed by the imposition of a Portuguese city structure on a tropical landscape. A Praia e o Tempo references one example of such filling, specifically the incalculable land reclamation project that contributed to the beach at Copacabana. The delicacy of their interventions is also responsive to the political moment. As opportunities for larger projects dwindle, lightness can be a means of survival. At the same time, Gru.a sees increased recognition of alternative modes of practice, finding power in the interdisciplinary.

A praia e o tempo abertas elisamendes elisa mendes gru.a rio de janeiro architectural review 1465 brazil

A praia e o tempo abertas elisamendes elisa mendes gru.a rio de janeiro architectural review 1465 brazil

Source: Elisa Mendes

Gru.a’s A praia e o tempo on Copacabana beach, Rio de Janeiro

Gru.a a praia e o tempo pedro varella rio de janeiro architectural review 1465 brazil

Gru.a a praia e o tempo pedro varella rio de janeiro architectural review 1465 brazil

Source: Pedro Varella

A praia e o tempo under construction

Gru.a drawing

Gru.a drawing

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Gru.a de onde não se vê quando se está lauro rocha niemeyer niterói museum rio de janeiro architectural review brazil 1465

Gru.a de onde não se vê quando se está lauro rocha niemeyer niterói museum rio de janeiro architectural review brazil 1465

Source: Lauro Rocha

Gru.a reformulates the work of the architects who have come before, for example veiling the famous form of Niemeyer’s Niterói museum in operation as a platform in De onde não se vê quando se está

 

Messina Rivas

Rodrigo Messina and Francisco Rivas started their practice in 2016, having met while working for the Paraguayan practice Gabinete de Arquitectura. Their work marks a direct connection to Benítez and Cabral, the clear resonance in their approach an essay in the intangible, unquantifiable values of what is gained in exchange. This is legible not merely in their use of brick but also their mode of manipulation, the sense of an ancient and earthy knowledge embodied in every mortared join. Despite the salience of the clay vein running between the Paraguayans and the young practice, Messina Rivas maintain that their choice of materials remains largely incidental, determined by what is available nearby. Designing first a form, three empty lines intersecting a landscape, they then carefully wield what matter already exists there to suit. The Capela Ingá-Mirim, for example, completed in 2018, was built of bricks from a house on site, in too poor a shape to rescue, along with rocks that had been thrown into the forest. Overlapping only at their ends and bound by bulging clods of mortar, the bricks that form the long arms of the chapel sing of the act of their own construction, of the hands that placed them there. This is an architecture of few words, simple gestures evoking a pure poetics as yet uncluttered by grim industrial realities: so far, the practice has yet to break away from dependence on private commissions from friends and family. When they do, let it not hamper their quiet grace.

28 capela ingá mirin messina rivas © federico cairoli architectural review brazil 1465

28 capela ingá mirin messina rivas © federico cairoli architectural review brazil 1465

Source: Federico Cairoli

The Capela Ingá-Mirin by Messina Rivas, 2018

09 capela ingá mirin messina rivas © federico cairoli architectural review brazil 1465

09 capela ingá mirin messina rivas © federico cairoli architectural review brazil 1465

Source: Federico Cairoli

16 capela ingá mirin messina rivas © federico cairoli architectural review brazil 1465

16 capela ingá mirin messina rivas © federico cairoli architectural review brazil 1465

Source: Federico Cairoli

Messina rivas drawing

Messina Rivas drawing

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23 Sul

23 Sul met at FAU-USP and set up in 2006, while many of the partners were still studying. They first worked on a cultural centre for a disadvantaged community near the university, a project that, despite the practice’s prolonged efforts, was never built, but that established a long-running commitment to public architecture. ‘In a city like São Paulo there’s a real lack of good public space’, they explain, ‘and it’s a direct way of changing people’s lives.’ The practice started at a time when public investment in architecture was more fruitful: political conditions over past years have pushed them towards work in increasingly privately owned spaces, but their hearts still lie with the public, describing public architecture work in Brazil as ‘an act of resistance and resilience’. They have formulated some tactics for survival, even managing to build with wood for the Fundação Florestal, an administrative building for the public body in charge of a protected area of forest on the southern coast of São Paulo state. Despite the natural abundance of wood and its suitability to the climate, timber construction is unheard-of in public architecture in Brazil. Concerns tend to rest with legal and budgetary issues and changing tactics is seen as a risk: ‘There’s a list of standard materials for public clients’, 23 Sul assert, ‘and wood is not on that list.’ The practice sees significant potential in timber used at great scale for public architecture in Brazil: perhaps this project can serve as precedent.

0278 23 sul fundacao florestal jureiaitatins pkok9657pe architectural review brazil 1465

0278 23 sul fundacao florestal jureiaitatins pkok9657pe architectural review brazil 1465

Source: Pedro Kok

Fundação Florestal by 23 Sul, 2019

027 23 sul fundacao florestal jureiaitatins pkok9657pe architectural review brazil 1465

027 23 sul fundacao florestal jureiaitatins pkok9657pe architectural review brazil 1465

Source: Pedro Kok

02 23 sul fundacao florestal jureiaitatins pkok9657pe architectural review brazil 1465

02 23 sul fundacao florestal jureiaitatins pkok9657pe architectural review brazil 1465

Source: Pedro Kok

23 sul drawing

23 sul drawing

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 This piece is featured in the AR October issue on Brazil – click here to purchase your copy today

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