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

 

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: 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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