Floating among the dense tree canopy of São Paulo’s leafy Jardins suburb is architect Marcio Kogan’s latest offering, an artfully created box named Volume C. It is the second space the Brazilian architect has created for furniture and design store Micasa, founded over 20 years ago by Houssein Jarouche and dealing in design from the emerging and the established. ‘It stands for good design, rather than just labels,’ says Kogan.

Completing Micasa’s corner-site complex, Volume C is intended as a pavilion for new retail concepts, events and designers in residence. For Kogan, the leading light of contemporary Brazilian modernism and principal of São Paulo-based Studio MK27, Jarouche was an ideal client. ‘Good clients with an open mind allow for experimentation whatever the programme is,’ he says.

Kogan wanted this project to signal a significant move forward from his 2007 Volume B, a heavy concrete box inspired by the city’s brutalist architecture, and the original Volume A, an industrial metal-and-glass box designed by French-Brazilian studio Triptyque. Thus, Volume C blends new timber construction techniques with influences from Japan in a lightweight wood-framed structure that features two wide openings. It’s a 15m by 15m void designed to be filled with ideas, people – and even a refurbished 1960s Airstream caravan, which will be parked inside from time to time.

Volume C’s sustainable timber frame is clad in translucent panels to create a light-filled display space. Photography: Fernando Guerra

Kogan chose wood to bring warmth to the space, but also to put to use some of the studio’s research into sustainable timber construction. ‘The wooden structure with detailed joinery points to a more sustainable and simple way of building,’ he says. ‘All pieces were assembled with ease, minimising waste and maintaining a low carbon footprint.’ So while Volume C showcases the clean lines and airy spaces of modernism, it looks firmly towards the future, moving away from the genre’s traditional heavy concrete and glass and allowing it to become more versatile – not to mention welcoming and approachable.

A structure of glued laminated timber frames and steel rods supports an outer skin of white metal-plate and polycarbonate panels. Kogan says the translucent sheets bring a ‘more mysterious sort of transparency’ to the volume and allow a tempered, even spread of daylight into the 7.5m-high space from above, as well as the unexpected ‘kinetic spectacle’ of shadows from the surrounding trees.

When the sun sets, Volume C marks its presence by becoming a glowing Japanese lantern illuminated from within by an Isamu Noguchi pendant lamp that hangs centrally, emphasising the space’s symmetry. The dynamic lightness of the structure is reminiscent of Sou Fujimoto’s airy framed structures or Kazuyo Sejima’s minimalist cuboids – all enlivened by São Paulo’s context of dense flora, impromptu street life and mild evenings. ‘In my opinion, contemporary Japanese architecture finds a common ground in Brazilian modernism,’ says Kogan. ‘I have a strong identification with its search for simplicity and emotion’. For the past five years, he says, he has been returning to Tokyo annually for a ‘two-week immersion’.

Volume C is a breath of fresh air, a structure where modernism is infused with culture, experimentation and feeling. The principles of modernism, ‘a rational and humanistic architecture’, are ‘still the ethical and aesthetic guidelines for contemporary architecture’, says Kogan – but the other ingredients can be up to you.

As originally featured in the June 2018 issue of Wallpaper* (W*231)