interview with architect carla juaçaba

designboom interviews brazilian architect carla juaçaba
all images are courtesy of carla juaçaba arquiteta

since setting up her own architectural firm in 2000, brazilian architect carla juaçaba has completed a series of public and private projects, focusing on residential and cultural programs in her native country. Juaçaba’s work also includes exhibition design and various academic activities – presenting lectures at colleges such as Harvard GSD, the University of Toronto and the Columbia School of Architecture. carla juaçaba won the first arcVision award for women in architecture in 2013 and was nominated for the schelling architecture award a year later.

designboom recently spoke with the architect who explained to us what shapes her design principles, the contemporary designers she particularly admires and her plans for the future.

juaçaba worked on casa atelier (2000) in its first year after university

designboom: what originally made you want to study architecture and become an architect?

carla juaçaba: I was fascinated by my grandmother who was an artist, and her architecture and art library was always a great vacation. the architecture was occasional and circumstantial: I heard about a chaotic and experimental architecture school nearby and immediately decided to go.

interview with carla juacaba arquiteta designboom
la casa rio bonito was completed in 2005 / see more of this project on designboom here
photo by nelson kon

DB: What particular aspects of your background and education have shaped your design principles and philosophies?

JC: I think it was not architecture, but through music and studying the piano. also by a continuous attempt to understand Japanese Zen culture with all the paths that may exist: anthropology, haiku, painting, etc. and these paths are never enough – there is still a huge border between us. octavio paz, claude lévi-strauss and roland barthes are an important avenue for this.

interview with carla juacaba arquiteta designboom
casa mínima (2008) presents panoramic views of the Brazilian rural landscape

DB: Who or what has had the greatest influence on your work to date?

JC: I think it is made of different parts: Nordic architecture is still part of my studies – the work of sverre fehn, jørn utzon and sigurd lewerentz – and at the same time brazilian architects such as paulo mendes da rocha and sergio bernardes. also some artists in brazil such as waltercio caldas, almilcar de castro and mira schendel, and outside brazil, richard serra. I am starting to like John Hejduk and realize that Kazuyo Sejima can have immense admiration for him.

interview with carla juacaba arquiteta designboom
humanidade pavilion (2012) / see more of this project on designboom here
photo by leonardo finotti

DB: Overall, what do you think is your strongest asset and how have you developed this skill over time?

JC: (being able to) observe the possibilities, and work with them. to copacabana (for the humanidade pavilion project) the scaffolding was there, it was part of the city. in the mountains, the stone was there. and when I can’t find anything, I think there is a desire hidden somewhere.

interview with carla juacaba arquiteta designboom
casa varanda (2007) is located in a wooded area
photo by fran parent

DB: Now that computer-generated visualizations are so common, is there still a place for making physical models or sketching designs by hand?

JC: I think we (in the West) have spent a lot of time being able to communicate in an abstract way, and suddenly our discipline is held hostage by hyper-realism, which is almost kitsch! I use the drawings in a very abstract way: a representation of ideas, which after a few explanations, are no longer abstract. it is an invitation to the imagination of others.

interview with carla juacaba arquiteta designboom
an interior view of the casa varanda
photo by fran parent

DB: is it an architect’s job to satisfy the general public?

JC: it has to satisfy the customer, but it has to be meaningful for both.

DB: which architects or designers in business today do you admire the most?

JC: I am thinking of Solano Benitez in Paraguay for his innovation and his particular experiences with brickwork, the refreshment of angelo bucci from the school of são paulo, grafton in ireland, eduardo souto de moura and kazuyo sejima always.

interview with carla juacaba arquiteta designboom
casa posse is currently under construction

DB: Can you tell us about the projects you are currently working on that you are particularly passionate about?

JC: I am working on a few housing projects, exhibition designs and for the first time I am participating in a guest competition for an institute in rio. I am particularly excited about a small house called ‘casa posse’, where the foundation is the structure that supports the whole construction, and also a children’s hospice for palliative care.

interview with carla juacaba arquiteta designboom
model illustrating the layout of the casa posse

DB: what is the best advice you have ever received, and what advice would you give to young architects and designers?

JC: I would not recommend this job in Brazil unless you are completely passionate about it. the best advice I got is don’t give up!

interview with carla juacaba arquiteta designboom
the practice of juaçaba also includes the design of exhibitions

DB: do you have a personal motto?

JC: to continue to work, and do not forget about the beauty.

philippe steven I design boom

Sep 23, 2015

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