Carla Juaçaba set up her independent practice in Rio de Janeiro in 2000. Combining design and research, the Brazilian architect has turned her hand to everything from private residences to exhibition design. She also regularly lectures at high-profile institutions such as Harvard GSD, Columbia University GSAPP, and Accademia di Architettura di Mendrisio.

She considers her participation in the 2018 Venice Architecture Biennale with the Vatican Chapel for the Holy See Pavilion her breakthrough work. ‘It was a synthesis of a very old programme: you go to the chapel and you sit to look at the suffering: the cross. Translating a programme into space – this is architecture. And it was totally immersed in nature.’

Vatican Chapel’s Holy See Pavilion in Venice
Vatican Chapel, Holy See Pavilion

Carla Juaçaba on what drives her

Understanding how a space can be ‘political, democratic and essential’ is a key driver in Juaçaba’s practice. ‘A phrase by the Brazilian indigenous leader and writer Ailton Krenak, “step gently on the ground”, is on the wall of my design studio at Mendrisio Accademia. Architectural design should be understood as action over a territory. Architecture is not a drawing or a visual composition: each line, idea, or sketch of an architectonic design represents an action, a material transformation, and a geographical transformation. We should work together with other disciplines to build a landscape where nature, design and infrastructure coexist.’

Even though Frida Escobedo and Juaçaba haven’t had the chance to work together yet, their paths have crossed several times – at architecture events and at Harvard, for example. They are currently working on the same project in Switzerland, a Geneva scheme where architects and artists were called to design a series of temporary shelters.

Juaçaba is also currently working on a project with a strong social purpose in Brazil, designing a café, a museum on the history of coffee, and a school in a campus conceived to boost small farming businesses through agricultural tourism. §

frontage of Vatican Chapel’s Holy See Pavilion
Vatican Chapel, Holy See Pavilion