Influenced by a spirit both modernist and contemporary, brazilian architect arthur casas has completed a number of exemplary projects in his home country and beyond. as evidenced by his expanding portfolio, casas’ work is fueled by a holistic approach that enables him to comfortably work at scales ranging from an everyday dining chair to an entire neighborhood masterplan. since founding studio arthur casas in 1999, his team of architects, designers and urbanists has completed projects in new york, paris, milan, tokyo and buenos aires.
in a recent interview, designboom spoke with arthur casas, who discussed his first forays into the field of architecture, and expanded on his studio’s design approach, and what he has in store for the future.
designboom: what originally made you want to study architecture and become an architect?
arthur casas: my family name is casas, which in portuguese means ‘houses’. I guess I never thought seriously about another profession. I started drawing houses when I was 8 years old and never stopped, maybe it’s what we call vocation.
DB: what particular aspects of your background and upbringing have shaped your design principles and philosophies?
AC: I was born around the same time as the capital of brazil, brasilia. I experienced the best period of brazilian architecture, when anything was possible for an architect, including designing an whole city – reorganizing the way of life in urban areas. I brought from my childhood and my visits in brasilia this freedom, and the commitment to modernist principles in my professional life.
DB: who or what has been the biggest influence on your work to date?
AC: despite having had much influence in modern brazilian architecture, the architect who touched me most, especially in the domestic-scale, was frank lloyd wright. he was the one who knew how to work with all scales of projects concomitantly with the same weight and importance.
DB: overall, what would you say is your strongest asset and how have you developed that skill over time?
AC: I find it easy to understand each project’s needs, whether it is residential, commercial or if it is large or small size project – I rarely make a mistake or misunderstand my initial assessments. I’m able to develop layouts very quickly, and I never forget a badly-resolved issue if I’m not 100% convinced that what I’ve proposed or drew was the best solution. I only introduce for a client what I believe is the best.
DB: now that computer generated visualizations are so commonplace, is there still a place for physical model making or sketching designs by hand?
AC: all our projects are first designed by me by hand – both the sketches and the technical drawings are created on my desk. the computer is an indispensable tool for the development of the idea. as for the physical model, we have in the studio a specific room for it, I think it is important to create models for certain projects.
DB: is it the job of an architect to satisfy the general public?
AC: I think our work should, overall, instigate people and seek to establish new forms of social contacts, to relate to the space. it may or may not satisfy at first, but surely will do in the future.
DB: outside of architecture, what are you currently interested in and how is it feeding into your designs?
AC: I have a holistic view of my profession, so I like to explore all areas and scales; from urbanism to the minor object design. I’ve been researching the history of the utilitarian object and their materials, and above all its forms and functions.
DB: which architects or designers working today do you most admire?
AC: probably álvaro siza and SANAA in architecture, and nendo in design.
DB: can you tell us about any projects you are currently working on that you are especially excited about?
AC: we are beginning a big project in rio de janeiro in partnership with the campana brothers which promises to be very exciting in the whole journey. the work is scheduled to initiate after the olympics games next year.
also in the state of rio, in the city of niterói, we were hired by the local power company (ampla, from the italian group enel) to design a 100% self sufficient house to be built up to the 2016 olympics in a public park in the city. there’s a huge effort from our side in research regarding the technology in construction of course, but above all, as it will be a home in the future (they call the project casa N.O.V.A.), a big analyses regarding the relationship of the residents; the house should be for multiple families and should receive constant guests from airbnb.
DB: what is the best advice you have received, and what advice would you give to young architects and designers?
AC: what I have to say to all young people who wish to join architecture universities is that it is not easy to be an architect. you must have talent, patience, a good sense of humor, and not be extremely attached to material issues, since very few architects can get very rich. but on the other hand, few professions can give as much pleasure as this.
DB: do you have a personal motto?
AC: I always try to be positive, even when the ‘picture is cloudy’.
Where now architects might use photoshop, Sir John Soane’s elaborate paintings once sold clients on big projects.
Renderings do not always tell the truth. Colors and materials change, trees placed into balconies and plazas disappear, and projects that looked bathed in a heavenly light on the computer screen end up looking more like concrete fortresses in real life.
Computers have certainly made it easier to create perfect-looking, totally impossible architecture. But architects have been using visual trickery since long before digital software came onto the scene, as a new exhibit at Sir John Soane’s Museum in London underscores.
Building a Dialogue draws on archival drawings and models from John Soane, an English architect, to reveal the 19th-century equivalent of elaborate Photoshopping.
Beautiful visuals—whether or not they match reality—have helped architects sell their case for years.
For instance, when Soane was hired to clean up and repair the exterior of the Bank of England, he instead drew up a proposal to redesign the entire block-length facade.
Elaborate paintings of his grand scheme by Soane’s draftsman, Joseph Michael Gandy, sold the bank‘s board, and Soane took on the role of the company’s architect for the next 45 years, during which he rebuilt almost every part of the building.
The Bank of England’s Tivoli Corner, built in 1807
In another case, Soane was asked to create alternative designs to his neoclassical proposal for the Holy Trinity Church in London.
He complied—but placed the concepts in styles requested by the client within the same painting, lined up one next to the other. Soane’s preferred neoclassical design shines the brightest, literally. It’s depicted bathed in sunshine, while the others fade into shadows.
Detailed paintings illustrated future buildings in a flattering light, selling clients on expensive and time-consuming commissions—not that it was always a successful tactic.
Soane’s design for a monumental new entrance to the official residences at Downing Street in 1825 never became reality, despite gorgeous illustrations of its potential.
Perhaps he could have made it happen if he had been able to Photoshop a celebrity into the foreground?
Building a Dialogue: The Architect and the Client runs until May 9, 2015, at the Soane Museum in London.
[via The Guardian]
It’s hard to get excited about an orphanage, but Norwegian social worker Ole-Jørgen Edna proves they don’t have to embody the scary stories of Dickens and Annie.
Edna was 20 when he left home to visit a small village in Thailand before starting college. After seeing the devastation caused by a border conflict with Burma, and a staggering number of orphans, he scrapped his plan for school and decided to care for three orphaned children.
Over time, he took on more kids and during a brief visit home met with a fledgling architecture firm called TYIN Tegnestue. The architects jumped at the chance to design new homes for these displaced children.
The original assignment was to build an orphanage, a traditional bunk house that could shelter his three children and others from surrounding areas.
“As our orphanage has a Christian background they felt it would be like starting a new mission station, which they did not want to be a part of,” says Edna. Instead, they developed a concept that would meet the children’s needs while reflecting the designer’s aesthetic sensibilities.
The result is six “Soe Ker Tie,” which translates to “butterfly houses.” Each is bright, constructed from bamboo and timber. Instead of stuffing everyone into a communal building, each small structure houses a few children.
“They make up a nice community of houses where the children can have the privacy of their own house, yet still be a part of a bigger structure,” says Edna.Instead of stuffing everyone into a communal building, each small structure can house a few children.
Each building is a mix of advanced architectural thought and local construction expertise. The designers brought a modern sensibility with contemporary forms, spots of vibrant color, and soaring roof lines. They also had to adapt their Western training to work with local materials–concrete footings were cast inside old tires, and walls were woven from bamboo. There were no blueprints or CAD files; all the plans were sketched on whiteboards. Amazingly, the project was completed for just $11,000.
As you’d expect from novice designers, some changes were necessary upon completion. Floor-to-ceiling bunks gave way to a second floor that gave kids a place to store their personal possessions–while preventing kids from from rolling out of their beds.
“It was kind of a dangerous way of sleeping as it was a steep drop if kids fell down, and there was not much done to prevent that from happening,” says Edna. “The younger kids also prefer to sleep closer together, which was a little difficult with the set up of the buildings.” The design team also spent time sprucing up the landscape surrounding the homes, crafting swings made from bamboo and rope and communal play areas.
Beyond the six buildings, the project yielded lasting benefits. Designers from TYIN Tegnestue have gone on to work on other projects in the developing world. Local builders gained experience with principles of architectural bracing and dealing with moisture. And Edna internalized the lessons and is applying them to his next building, a community center and school for these displaced children, which is currently being crowdfunded.
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