Franklin Lee Q&A
Raised in Sao Paolo by a Portuguese mother and Chinese father, Franklin Lee was well placed to swim in the international jet stream, based half the year as he is in London , half in Brazil. He teaches at London’s AA and his practice, Subdv which he founded with his work and life partner Anne Save de Beaurecueil, is currently building three major projects in Sao Paolo and Rio.
So, where is home?
Well, I studied in the UK and did a diploma at the AA, and a Masters in New York, where I spent many years working for Bernard Tschumi. But right now, London is home. But I’m spending a lot of time in Brazil because we are building private houses in Sao Paolo, for which we are also the developers, and a cultural and education centre in Pariasopolis, one of the city’s biggest favelas. It’s being cleaned up in preparation for the 2014 World Cup.
How does being an architect in Brazil compare with being an architect in the UK?
There are a lot of opportunities in Brazil. Its social and urban issues lead to informal conditions in the cities and where architects can step in. Take, for example, the story of former boxing champion Nilson Garrido who found himself homeless and living under a viaduct in Sao Paolo. He set up an informal ring there, which has since become a sports academy. This summer, we are holding a workshop in São Paulo with the AA and Netherlands Institute of Architects on urban regeneration. With the forthcoming World Cup in 2014 and the 2016 Olympic Games, local authorities are looking for ways in which grassroots sports culture can transform troubled neighbourhoods. The workshop will design and produce prototypes for outdoor sports facilities under the viaducts in São Paulo. London rarely offers this sort of project.
In what ways is London tapped into the Brazilian culture?
There are lots of Brazilian students at the AA and the Bartlett. Too many! I feel surrounded by Brazilians. Sub DV often gets invited to join exhibitions on Brazilian architecture, and symposiums on Brazil in London, so I actually feel very connected to Brazil.