Though a bit more sedate then the previous night’s party, where copious amounts of caipirinhas were consumed, the New Practices Sao Paolo panel discussion on July 15 was not without its own fireworks. Toshiko Mori and José Armenio de Brito Cruz moderated the panel which was preceded by presentations from the ten winners. A strictly enforced ten-minute time limit made presentations feel like the Oscars when the orchestra music begins to swell. Though each presenter struck an distinct note, one could pick up on a few common threads. I certainly wouldn’t call it anti-green, but a few presenters markedly pointed out that there are other immediate matters in Brazil that compete with sustainability. “We didn’t want to create a green building,” said Triptyques’ Carolina Bueno, when describing her building, which, oddly enough, included “pores” in the facade for plants to grow. More to the point, Arkiz’s Rafael Brych questioned whether “green demagogical discourse” shaping the architectural discourse fully represented what was needed in Brazil.
No one disputes that Brazil is going through a huge transition period. But while the economy booms, extreme poverty and crime persists. For all its extraordinary architectural history, it’s a place where the field of architecture is still evolving. Armenio de Brito Cruz pointed out that Brazil has 100,000 architects and 5000 more graduate every year. “But architecture in Brazil is not as established as it is in the U.S.,” Armenio de Brito Cruz said before asking the panel, “Am I lying?” Mori didn’t mince words about the problems of “impossible claustrophobia” and crime. Mori was in Brazil as a juror for Harvard GSD’s Green Prize when she had to duck behind a car as bullets flew. “It’s not New York,” she said. But despite the problems “there’s this amazing sense of optimism” which she credited two solid presidential administrations. While there were interesting images tied to the 2016 Olympics, Mori pointed out that it’s the community and cultural centers in the poorest areas that make the biggest difference. “When architecture enters enters these communities there’s a sense of peace.”