Architecture by Marcio Kogan
(Image credit: TBC)

Wallpaper* grabbed a recent opportunity to catch up with Brazilian architect Marcio Kogan, who took us through his ideas about life, architecture and his passion for São Paulo.

What is your guiding design principle?

We always seek to use a simple design with a mix of materials that are typically Brazilian. And we like to contrast materials.

Who are two of your heroes?

In the Osler House, we incorporated a ceramic panel that was specially designed by Athos Bucão. It was his last project. He did all of the classic Brasilia panels for Oscar Niemeyer and Lucio Costa. The incredible João Filgueiras Lima, or Lelé as he’s better known – he was a genius of sustainability long before the idea became commonplace.

Why are you so fascinated with the box form?

I enjoy its ludic aspect. To me, it seems to be the most natural form to use throughout the architectural process.

So much of your work is based in São Paulo. Architecturally, what emotions does the city stir in you?

I am addicted to São Paulo. It’s one of the most interesting cities in the world. It is absolutely chaotic, ugly, polluted and any other unpleasant adjectives one might imagine, but with energy that is absolutely fantastic and unparalleled. The mixture of everything creates a unique and impassioned personality.

What’s in store for the city?

Even greater chaos. Its infrastructure develops at a slower pace than its growth.

Which of your buildings is your favourite?

Mi Casa Vol. B in São Paulo. But when we finish the island house in Paraty, Rio de Janeiro, that will be my favourite.

Which building do you wish you had designed?

The Barcelona pavilion by Mies Van Der Rohe.

What's a well designed building?

I have always admired Brazilian modernism that began in the 1930s. Incredible work was done by dozens of starchitects like Lucio Costa, Lina Bo Bardi, Oscar Niemeyer, Rino Levi and Affonso Reidy. It’s always surprising to me that in the early and mid-20th century, Brazil produced the projects that it did – so simple and elegant. A lesson for our superfluous world in crisis.

And so what’s a badly designed building?

It is not a question of beautiful or ugly. What bothers me is the exaggeration in architecture today: it’s almost baroque and very costly. Recently, I participated in an exhibit of international architecture in Barcelona and – amid all the sophisticated and expensive designs and starchitects – the project I liked most was actually not a building but one related to renewable resources. The Community Cooker is, simply, a very low-tech process by the Kenyan company Planning Systems Services where garbage is turned into fuel. By our standards, it would be considered ugly, but it provides sustenance for thousands of people. So, which matters more? As Oscar Niemeyer would say, “Life is more important than architecture”.

What will Marcio Kogan be doing 10 years from now?

I hope to be alive.

Ellie Stathaki is the Architecture & Environment Director at Wallpaper*. She trained as an architect at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki in Greece and studied architectural history at the Bartlett in London. Now an established journalist, she has been a member of the Wallpaper* team since 2006, visiting buildings across the globe and interviewing leading architects such as Tadao Ando and Rem Koolhaas. Ellie has also taken part in judging panels, moderated events, curated shows and contributed in books, such as The Contemporary House (Thames & Hudson, 2018), Glenn Sestig Architecture Diary (2020) and House London (2022).