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INTERVIEW: Gustavo Penna on Building the Lincoln Residence in the Highlands of Minas Gerais, Brazil
Inhabitat: What’s the future of architecture?
Gustavo: Architecture will go back to focusing on the pedestrian. The cities have been dehumanized, and bringing back walkable cities is the next big thing for the contemporary world. The details of the city, of the environments, corners, meeting places, making buildings that are less narcissistic and more integrating – those are the big challenges. We have got to reassess the city so it will offer its own way. If you just run by a city, the details get lost and the city falls apart. When you introduce many ways that interconnect, a network is created within the city. I’d like to design paths that flow over that network, on top of the roads, with walkways and “squareways”, as well as under them and connecting blocks. It’s an interesting idea that creates crossings and shortcuts within the blocks and makes you consider the inside spaces that can be owner-controlled. It allows for more options for using and enjoying the city.
Inhabitat: What sort of projects have you been working on lately?
Gustavo: I like to have my hands in a variety of projects. I’m working on a soccer stadium, a PBL (Problem-Based Learning)-based university, a monument dedicated to press freedom and a TV station. For example, right now I’m designing a square in the city of Araxá, a kind of theater-square, and at the same time I’m working on the biggest corporate building in Belo Horizonte, the new headquarters for CEMIG, Minas Gerais’ power company.
Inhabitat: What project are you most proud of and why?
Gustavo: The most important quality of my projects is that they become tools for integration. They instrumentalize the life in the city, they gather people. I want them to be understood by as many citizens as possible. There are many projects and they do not always end up as well as I wanted them to, but they have always taught me something anyway. The People’s Space of Contagem (Espaço Popular de Contagem), for example, was built in an industrial city, on a site where previously a gas station and a vacant lot were located, and it became a meeting space where 40,000 people can watch a concert together. I designed many buildings with no fencing or metal meshes. There was doubt that they would stay that way, but the building lasted and functioned well for 15 years and counting with no metal fence. Guignard School has never had fences and continues to be a center for teaching art and culture in Minas Gerais, a very important project. The bottom line is: every project is dear to me. Each one has its musicality, its message. I keep them all close to my heart.
Inhabitat: What kind of architecture do you not like or consider pretentious?
Gustavo: I like to paraphrase Ada Louise Huxtable, from The New York Times. She says she’s tired of seeing really beautiful buildings with terrible architecture. I hate a building that just wants to be beautiful and has nothing besides being narcissistically beautiful. I like generous buildings. Every building with gratuitous beauty is a stupid building.
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