Belgium- and Brazil-based design practice CRU! architects channeled its passion for bamboo architecture and natural building materials into an art gallery in Catuçaba, a rural community about three hours east of Sao Paulo, Brazil. Spanning an area of 1,184 square feet, the project was commissioned by the owner of Fazenda Catuçaba, an idyllic farmhouse-style hotel that includes an operational organic farm. Building on Fazenda Catuçaba’s environmentally friendly practices, the art gallery was constructed mainly of bamboo and reused fired bricks.
More than just an exercise in sustainable architecture, the art gallery for Fazenda Catuçaba was also created as a social building project to benefit the local community. With help from the architects, a community eco-building cooperative constructed the project and provided training and job development opportunities for the local residents. The cooperative constructed the entire bamboo structure, while local workers from Fazenda Catuçaba’s on-site farm carried out the excavation work, foundation work and brick laying.
The design of the art gallery draws inspiration from the differing architectural styles of its two neighboring structures: the Fazenda Catuçaba’s colonial Portuguese-styled farmhouse and the Occa, an indigenous communal space built by an Amazonian Indian tribe. As a result, the exterior of the gallery features colonial Portuguese-inspired white walls and blue doors while the interior is marked by narrow passageways and courtyard evocative of Amazonian Indian architecture. A fountain installed in the patio connects to the river and strengthens the building’s connection with nature.
“The gallery is entirely based on the golden proportion — the width and height of the different parts correspond to the rules set by the Greek and Roman architects such as Vitruvius,” explained lead architect Sven Mouton. “It is meant to be a humble construction that fits the colonial style of the surrounding, but that also refers to the occa nearby. A Portuguese face with an Indian heart. Since art can be considered sacred, the spiritual language of a monastery arch-way was used to house the exhibitions. In the original sense a gallery was a covered walk or passageway, narrow and partly open along a wall.”
Photography by Nelson Kon via CRU! architects