Guilherme Leme Q&A
Leme runs the Sao Paolo office of Davis Brody Bond Aedas. In 2007, Leme went to New York to work for DBB Aedas. In 2008, aged 28, he was invited to be a partner and open an office for the firm in Sao Paolo. He travels regularly between the two.
What are you currently working on?
I’m working closely with the New York office on a University Masterplan in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia and a mixed use development in Yiwu, China. In Brazil we have been doing lots of studies and prospecting and I’m working on the design of a soccer stadium in North East of the country which is still in early stages.
How does working in New York compare to working in Brazil?
Both São Paulo and New York have the same fast pace. In both cities you have to work regularly around the clock. There’s a big difference in the size of the firms though; in New York many practices have more than 100 architects; in Brazil, 20 people is considered big. In all Brazil, you can count on one hand the number of firms with more than 50 architects. I think this reflects the poor level of professionalism of architecture in Brazil. Of course, the size of a company is not related to the quality of the work produced, but big firms are only possible where you get paid properly. Things are starting to change, but design has typically been considered as ’one more component’ within the real estate and construction process. In the US, it feels like architecture is a more central piece of the game. At DBB Aedas, there are 65 year-old colleagues who are not partners - and they still get well paid. You would never find that in Brazil. Usually, there is the founder, leading design, marketing and administration, and a lot of very young architects supporting him. Once they hit 30, they have to open their own studio or become a developer or contractor since small firms cannot offer a decent salary.
What things do you miss most about Brazil?
Padarias. Much nicer than New York delis.
What Brazilian things did you do in New York?
Going to the beach was a premium in NYC. The first time I went, I was expecting something ugly. I was wrong. Of course it’s unfair to compare New York’s beaches with any top Brazilian beach, but their thin sandy strips and pleasant seas worked quite well during my summers.
Are there any Brazilian expressions that would translate well in to English?
’Pra inglês ver’ literally means ’for the English to see’ but euphemistically means ’pulling the wool over someone’s eyes’. It supposedly originated in 1830 when a law to abolish slavery was approved only because the British demanded it, but everybody - including the government - knew that it wouldn’t happen and used to pretend it did.