An interview with architect Ruy Ohtake
Creating some of Brazil’s most recognizable and arguably most colourful buildings - like the striking Thomie Ohtake Cultural Institute designed for his artist mother and the visually arresting Hotel Unique - Sao Paulo-based Ruy Ohtake is one of the country’s most well-known and respected contemporary architects.
Wallpaper* has produced a special issue on Brazil as we feel that this is a good time for the country and its architecture. Do you agree?
There is a cultural institute, which showcases just that, the Institute Thomie Ohtake. It has just held a very important exhibition about contemporary Finnish design. The space itself was opened in 2004 and it has amazing exhibitions and initiatives which showcase art, architecture and photography from Brazil and abroad.
Is there a lot of new and interesting architecture in Brazil at the moment?
Yes, and I am trying to do Brazilian contemporary architecture myself. In all my works in the past ten to 15 years, the challenge is to create something that is truly contemporary.
What are the main elements of your architecture?
It is the relationship with the city. Architecture is part of the history of the city and as such any contemporary architectural intervention and expression can be crucial to the city’s development. Architecture must provoke surprise and emotion. The life inside the architecture must also be agreeable and not forced.
You do a lot of colour in your work. How important is it for you?
Colour is life. Through colour, you can express yourself and can create a very contemporary idiom.
Do you see architecture as an art and the building as a painting?
Absolutely. Architecture is definitely one of the arts and probably the most difficult one, because people actually work and live in it. The presence of architecture as art in the city is very important.
Do you feel your architecture could be described as Brazilian? How does it connect with the country and the culture?
I design Brazilian architecture and work with Brazilian culture as these are my roots. But I also feel that architectural expression must be... well, I don’t like the word international, but it must be for everybody. It needs to be global.
What are your influences?
As a student, my influences were Oscar Niemeyer and Artigas, who did the architecture school of São Paulo where I studied. In addition, I like very much Frank Gehry. He was able to transform the city of Bilbao with just one piece of architecture. It was very powerful. Also I follow the work of Renzo Piano, Thom Mayne, as well as many British architects.