Gallery: INTERVIEW: Gustavo Penna on Building the Lincoln Residence in ...

 

Inhabitat: How did the environment, neighborhood and culture influence you in this project?

Gustavo: A house is only important when it transcends the physical boundaries of the built area. It has to be like a citadel from which you see the world and fancy nature. It’s a place to live in, where you walk alongside the memories. That’s the principle of the Lincoln residence. It is located on an absolutely gorgeous spot at the top of a mountain, with a view to a very important water supply for the city. The intention there is to act the same way the body would, to gaze at the surroundings and the landscape. And not only at the “detached” landscape, but also at the sky above. The house’s windows open to the sky and the surroundings.

The weather changes constantly during the day in the highlands of Minas Gerais. It’s cloudy, it’s sunny, it’s rainy. It’s nice to watch the day go by through the house’s glass cube. It exposes you to the elements and shelters and protects you from them at one time.

The plan of the house is not very sophisticated. It echoes the plans of the historical cities and farms of Minas Gerais. When you look at the house externally, you may think it’s hard to be interpreted by the dweller, but it’s the opposite; it’s he who best interprets that space. That gives me great satisfaction.

We didn’t have many materials, only glass and painted brick walls, so the challenge was in joining the glass panels. We solved it simply, with materials, structural silicone glazing, all very well-founded.

Inhabitat: How would you describe your architectural style?

Gustavo: I start with the ground. In order to design, the architect has to have their feet on the ground, eyes on the horizon and head in the stars. Having your feet on the ground means having a good grasp of the terrain you stand on, the trees nearby, the laughters, the neighbors, the whole environment where you find yourself. Having your eyes on the horizon means contemplating that you are in a certain country, surrounded by a particular climate and culture. We have to represent this culture and its esthetic thinking. It is of the essence to actually see the world around us. And having your head in the stars means that nothing can be done without creativity. You can never really get to do something real if you don’t aim for the new. This means not going through the same all over again, but to actually build something that deserves to be built. More of the same means repetition – it means denying the basic human possibility of being original.

I try to turn myself into the building, into the very surroundings and grounds upon which I’m going to build. I imagine the gestures my body would perform there. Buildings make gestures just like we do, and those are gestures that will stand for a long time, so they have to be consistent. It has to be a concise gesture, so as to last long.

Inhabitat: What do “green design” and sustainability mean to you? How do you apply them in your work?

Gustavo: I think a good project has to be sustainable. It is a way of considering the things that surround you. Our mothers always teach us that it is impolite not to respect others. So, I go for respect, for a project that catches the best sunlight, that captures the wind to control the temperature, that features wide windows in order to save electricity in the daytime, a project that brings together many spaces so as to accommodate different activities. I want to bear in mind everything and everybody. Those are climate considerations I’ve kept in mind for the last 40 years. I want to let the water percolate the ground, to match the plants with the house, to bring the sun in. Such are my projects.

Inhabitat: What would you recommend to a beginner architect?

Gustavo: I’d say, “Stop waiting!” architects have this poor habit of waiting for someone to come into their offices. The first attitude of an architect should be to stop waiting and just get to work, even if it’s a small time job in their community. Sometimes, it’s good to do something that won’t pay as much as you think you’re worth, but that will show everybody that you can make a difference. It’s something to make you feel important and to demonstrate the importance of an architect in that social space. You need to stop waiting and act. Architects have never been of such importance to our world as they are now.

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