Architects Directory Alumni: Casa Cigarra by FGMF
The Wallpaper* Architects Directory has turned 20. Conceived in 2000 as our index of emerging architectural talent, this annual listing of promising practices, has, over the years, spanned styles and continents; yet always championing the best and most exciting young studios and showcasing inspiring work with an emphasis on the residential realm. To mark the occasion, in the next months, we will be looking back at some of our over-500 alumni, to catch up about life and work since their participation and exclusively launch some of their latest completions. Defined by a striking cantilever, Casa Cigarra is a composition of architectural volumes, green spaces and water in the Brazilian countryside, created by 2009 Wallpaper* Architects Directory alumnus FGMF Arquitetos.
The work of Sao-Paulo based FGMF has always been bold and beautiful. It was its eye-catching Grid House that first caught our eye, featuring, off the back of it, the studio in our 2009 Architects Directory, when it was just about ten years old – the first Brazilian outfit to be included. Directors Fernando Forte, Lourenço Gimenes and Rodrigo Marcondes Ferraz have gone from strength to strength ever since, working on anything from large scale residential, to smaller retail projects, and high-profile, international collaborations, such as, for example, with Kengo Kuma.
Still, they have a special place in their hearts for single family housing, and their latest completion, Casa Cigarra, displays just how inventive and enthusiastic their approach can be. ‘Some architects believe that the design of a single-family house is less important than jobs that have a major urban impact,’ says the team. ‘But in our opinion, the opportunity of building a house, a basic unit of architecture, and to interfere in the way people live, is perhaps one of the purest forms of architectural investigation.’
The family home, set on a steep slope in upstate Sao Paulo, is as dramatic, as it is functional – a direct response to its topography’s potential and the client’s need for a generous home that can be both a private retreat and a place for entertaining, and combines inside and outside effortlessly.
Conceived as two distinct volumes, stacked on top of each other at an odd angle, the structure has a clear internal arrangement; private areas, such as bedrooms, as well as the garage and service rooms, are located on the more discrete, lower level, enveloped in solid, exposed concrete that anchors the composition to the ground. Upstairs, the seemingly floating glass and metal ‘wing’ that juts out over the hill wrapped in sun-shading ‘fins’, contains the living spaces. Apart from the living, dining room and kitchen, it includes a external landscape that spans an al fresco seating area, balconies, bridges and a swimming pool. Here is also where the house’s main entrance is situated.
These contrasting elements sit together in surprising harmony, uniting public and private, open and closed. It is not an unusual approach for the firm, who, informed by its country’s vernacular as well as its modernist tradition, enjoy experimenting with new ideas, juxtapositions and scales.
‘These last 10 years have been very productive for FGMF. One of our firm goals has been to work with different project scales, from a chair to an urban project, and we achieved it,’ say the founders. ‘But even with so much transformation, our approach remains to challenge our own knowledge and experience from investigative projects, which constantly take us out of our comfort zone and force us to learn and look for different solutions.’ §