An interview with Fernando de Mello Franco of MMBB
Fernando de Mello Franco, Marta Moreira and Milton Braga form MMBB - one of Brazil’s most energetic and multi-faceted architectural practices with work spanning from large urban planning and regeneration schemes to private houses. Regular collaborators with Pritzker Prize winner and member of Wallpaper*’s advisory panel, Paulo Mendes de Rocha, MMBB combine practice with academia and have currently a range of projects on the drawing boards.
What defines Brazilian architecture and culture?
What is special is the way the Brazilians operate with the culture as a whole, even though each area has its own characteristics and interpretations of what Brazilian culture is. We also solve problems creatively. Everything could be a solution for a problem; we fix things with what we have available. This shows the power of our culture and Lina Bo Bardi used this all the time. That is, the way we mix the technical global standards with local culture. It is not local and not global, it is the friction in-between.
Do you think there are many architects today who work like this?
No, I don’t.
How does Brazil’s strong Modernist legacy affect and influence contemporary architecture in the country?
Well, Oscar Niemeyer is still alive so the movement is still alive in a way. But Wallpaper* is here and so many other people from all over the world, like you, think that Brazil is in a special moment of change. And for sure it is.
Do you agree with that?
I do agree. Sao Paulo, for example, was formed as a modern industrial city but now something new is going to emerge. I don’t know what it is going to be, but it is not exactly the continuation of the Modern movement. We are not turning our back to it, of course. Things are just changing right now. Paulo Mendes da Rocha for example is really clever and is conscious of that. He says he hates to see young people doing what he had done 50 years ago. It has no meaning now.
Is Brazil and Brazilian construction mainly supported by governmental or private funds, Brazilian or foreign?
We certainly have both, but there is lots of Brazilian money for sure. We have mines and oil, so many good resources. But when you talk about Brazilian architecture, you will notice that all the big projects are somehow connected with a special political moment. For example, the Ministry of Education by Le Corbusier and others happened at such a moment. During the 1950s, the best of Niemeyer and Lina Bo Bardi’s first works were connected with the economical development Brazil had after the Second World War. The bossa nova, cinema nuovo and so on were all expressions of that moment. I believe that Brazil is changing at the moment so we can expect something new soon.
Do you feel the state is encouraging a change?
You may find one person here and one there - maybe one per state - but it is definitely not a movement yet.