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Monday, November 5, 2012

Traditional Elements of Brazilian Architecture


By Marina Correa
Photography: Nelson Kon; courtesy Studio MK27


The two-storey Cobogo House based in Sao Paulo, Brazil depicts a power-packed play of light and shadow; the architecture reminiscent of veterans, Lucio Costa and Oscar Niemeyer…

A simple straight-lined structure in umber and white, the L-shaped home bordering an inviting open expanse seems a trifle unusual in setting, at first glance. Draw closer and it reveals a studied exercise in chiaroscuro elements, intelligibly played out by inherent aesthetic and functional concerns.

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Starting with a volumetric geometry of white, orchestrated by hollowed-out elements carved in concrete by Austrian-American sculptor, Erwin Hauer constituting the walls of the topmost floor, an architectural vocabulary of light and shadow is established. Creating a constant play of light that affects material, texture and spatial perception, these hollowed-out elements take on different forms with the incidence of the sun. The effect is multiplied throughout, by day with the shifting rays of the sun and by night, with the shadows of interior and exterior lights.

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Hauer’s white screen is an inspirational work reminiscent of Oscar Niemeyer’s pioneering use of reinforced concrete to produce soaring, curvaceous forms. Complementing and in continuity with this principle, part of the ground floor is beautifully rendered with the illusion of a wooden panel extending from the living room right into the garden. In actuality, floor-to-ceiling wooden mashrabiya panels, which can be drawn completely to one side, provide a seamlessness between the indoors and outdoors.

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The conspicuous pillars seen in the living room again remind us of Niemeyer’s works, of mixing volumes and empty spaces to create unconventional patterns often propped up by piloti or stilts. The sensibility flows through to the middle floor and creates a continuous dialogue with the architecture. The mashrabiyas also allow natural ventilation and eschew the need for artificial cooling.

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Interestingly, the 1,365 sq m house gets its name Cobogo from the traditional terracotta interwoven screen that is reminiscent of the architecture of Lucio Costa, well remembered for reconciling traditional Brazilian forms and construction techniques with international modernism. Otherwise minimalistic in d├ęcor, the furniture sports clean and straight lines, and is made mostly made out of natural materials and fabrics following a predominantly neutral colour palette. Splashes of colour are absorbed through patterned soft furnishings, works of art and outdoorsy elements. Another intriguing highlight is the huge Jabuticabeira tree, which bestows a naturally artistic element to this elegantly built home.

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