Brasil Arquitetura's more than 30-year long portfolio spans urban planning, public and residential work as well as furniture. Headed by principals Marcelo Ferraz and Franscisco Fanucci since the 1980s, the firm combines valuable experience gained from working with iconic architect Lina Bo Bardi and his team with in-depth professional know-how, a strong research basis and a love for Brazilian craft and culture. We speak with Marcelo Ferraz about the future of Brazil's architectural scene.
Would you agree that now feels like a good moment for Brazilian architecture?
I don't know what you've heard from the other architects, but we've been working in the office for 31 years and for the first time recently we have been getting really good works in terms of commissions. There generally seem to be more competitions taking place in Brazil. Our government was very smart at the beginning of the financial crisis and spent money, so things kept moving.
Twenty years ago, there were not that many public projects here. Was this due to economic or political reasons?
It was both, I think. But we are definitely leaving this atmosphere now.
There are also some works by international architects planned in Brazil too.
Yes, there are lots of architects from abroad trying to get commissions here. I think it is good to open a bit and bring fresh air and create healthy antagonism. The museum by Alvaro Siza in Porto Alegre is a very good example of that.
The Rio Olympics are coming up. How will that affect the city's architecture?
I think we are going to lose a good opportunity to change things and the city. Our experience in the Pan-American games was very bad. But now who knows, maybe things will change.
How did the powerful legacy of modernism in Brazil affect you in terms of defining your own style?
There is a group of architects that is very close to the modern movement. We all studied Lucio Costa, Oscar Niemeyer, Artigas, and we are, in a way, their 'sons'. But there was also Lina Bo Bardi, who I worked with and who was a little bit different. She introduced a whole new eye to Brazilian architecture and modernism. She adopted the Brazilian culture and lifestyle and tried to feed everything into her work. Her SESC Pompeia building is the most democratic place to visit in Sao Paulo. It is an amazing place where you can find very simple people and very sophisticated people together.
What was the most important thing you learnt from her?
It was the way of making architecture. We always try to put in the programme the culture of the people and the geography. Locality is quite important. We don't start from the form; we don't do formalistic or structural solutions.
Would you say then that your architecture is quite Brazilian?
It is Brazilian and we also put the human factor in the centre. I think this is definitely one of the lessons I learnt from Lina. We first go and study the area and the people and after that, once we have formed the concept, we go to the computers to design.
Brazil is a big country with a lot of resources. Do you feel there are lots to take advantage of?
Yes, we do have to grab the opportunity. We have a good climate and the earth is wonderful, a good mix of people. This is one of the best things about Brazil: The fusion.