The Brasil Arquitetura office, formed in 1972, is an architect’s association led by Francisco Fanucci and Marcelo Ferraz, having executed emblematic projects such as the Yellow Quarter in Berlin, Germany, the Rodin Museum in Salvador, Bahia and the Praça das Artes in São Paulo, among many others. Both were very close to Lina Bo Bardi at important moments in her professional life, including the construction of Sesc Pompéia. In several projects, they faced the challenge of rehabilitating old buildings, such as the Museu do Pão, Praça das Artes, Rodin Museum and Sesc Pompéia itself. We spoke with the office to know more about this type of intervention.
ArchDaily: Several of your projects are rehabilitation of old, usually industrial, buildings. What do you find interesting in this type of challenge?
Brasil Arquitetura: In working with the rehabilitation of buildings for other uses than originals, as in the case of old industries, we started a dialectical game. We should take from the building itself, or space, the solutions to adapt to new uses. That is, we never start from scratch. The difficulties and limitations are what guide us and indicate the project solutions, as in a game of chess in which, with each move, we change the reality, having to redo the calculations and to look for the exits, or solutions again. When designing in existing, old buildings or not, we must seek the “vocation” of each space on the program to be implemented. And this is very pleasurable.
ArchDaily: What experiences with Lina Bo Bardi and Sesc Pompeia do you still use as reference today?
Brasil Arquitetura: The nine years inside the Sesc construction site were more than a laboratory, a deep training in design practice. We designed a restaurant, theater, swimming pool, courts, gym rooms, library, exhibition spaces, administrative spaces, technical and support areas, etc. Sesc Pompeia is not a single project. There are many within a conceptual unit. Each one with its characteristics and specificities relative to uses and functions. In this period, we also participated in various exhibitions, taking part in all stages, from curatorial definitions to manual assembly work, through thematic research, expography, production, etc. A real school.
ArchDaily: Can you explain a little about the strategy when choosing what is preserved or not in the existing building?
Brasil Arquitetura: A deep analysis of the object to be used is fundamental – its history, its tectonics, facts and myths. Everything matters and can help. But the most important thing is to do all this recognition reading with the projective eye, that is, from the perspective of what one wants to implant and install in this building or set of constructed spaces; as the future life there should be. A two-way, perspective and projective journey at the same time. That is, when we prospect or seek, we are already projecting because we seek with a goal – or dream, already defined. And as was said, the findings during this search also change the goal. This is the dialectical game.
ArchDaily: What is it like working in Brazil with this type of project?
Brasil Arquitetura: Very good and still unusual, or rather little practiced or adopted as a field of work for this huge mass of architects we have, but also as a possible solution to certain problems in our more than five thousand cities. When buildings become obsolete for the purposes for which they were designed, we must adapt them to new functions, try to incorporate them into contemporary life with new uses. It is not always possible and many disappear, as it happens in the history of the city, for several reasons. But it is worth thinking and trying to find out if they are carriers of at least some vitality that can once again bring them back into urban life. After all, they are fruits of the wealth produced by human labor. But we cannot preserve everything, nor should we want it. Cities are living, mutant organisms.
ArchDaily: What kind of use do you prefer to work on rehabilitation projects?
Brasil Arquitetura: Any use is valid if it makes sense. Making sense means meeting the real demands of society, or of communities, groups of people, and not creating drills, something very common nowadays. Our cities are full of it. I think we are still very focused on designing in the rehabilitation centers of culture and similar. The ideal would be to expand this program, design housing, hotels, hospitals, schools, etc. in these abandoned or underutilized spaces and buildings. They are industrial, railway, empty backyards in the central areas of the metropolis (The Praça das Artes is an example), intriguing spaces, wonderful to dream…