BLOCO Arquitetos was founded in Brasilia by the architects Daniel Mangabeira (University of Brasilia-UnB, 1999), Henrique Coutinho (UnB, 1997) and Matheus Seco (UnB, 1999). The studio works in projects of different scales and programs, from homes and buildings to interiors and temporary facilities. BLOCO’s projects are directly related to their specific constraints such as topography, solar orientation of the site and constructions costs. The limits that might be imposed by certain programs are always considered as creative possibilities.
BLOCO Arquitetos manages the account “Brasília Moderna” (Modern Brasília), a collection of photos and descriptions of buildings that were constructed during the decades of 1960s and 1980s in Brasília and that were designed by the first-generation of architects who worked in the city. The initiative aims to promote awareness of the importance of preserving and maintaining this important collection.
Let’s go find out more about this team!
What is your main source of inspiration? How would you describe your approach?
We can say that our inspiration is directly related to the interest and admiration we have for Brazilian modernism in the 60’s and 70’s, more specifically the set of buildings built outside the Monumental Axis of Brasília in that period. The Brazilian capital was built “from scratch” in three years and opened in 1960. Therefore, the public and private buildings constructed during the first decades of the city’s life (housing, libraries, offices) used to reflect the way in which some modern architects dealt with the urgency and limited resources of the time. Many of these buildings are constructively ingenious, “no time” for superfluous elements, so to speak. Economy, practicality, adaptation to the climate and the available construction means are some of the principles that are present in these works and that in our view are still relevant today. Therefore, we see our work as an attempt to continue what previous generations did. Our approach to starting a project always starts from a detailed analysis of the limitations we will have: budget, deadlines, construction processes, program. We view these limitations as a positive thing, as we believe that a good project necessarily has to respond adequately to its constraints. Therefore, we do not seek to create a recognizable signature on our works.
How do you balance your differences? Which are the things that connect your design visions the most?
We have been partners for 24 years, so we are aware of the differences of thought between us. We see this in a positive light! It was precisely these differences that made us question, criticize, and reflect on the best paths to be adopted so far. After so much time together and working collectively, visions end up converging for the common good. As for the vision that each of us has about our craft, I believe that we have in common the search for an “architecture of adequacy”, although there are several ways to do it. We always ask ourselves in each project: Why? For whom? How? We see that a project that can answers these questions ends up having a better chance of being successful. We believe that constant questioning makes our work more consistent.
How do you balance form and function?
The form of our projects ends up reflecting the sum of our experiences combined with the demands presented by our clients and the characteristics of the site (place) where the project is located. We are very pragmatic, therefore, issues such as cost, maintenance, construction system and ways of using natural light and ventilation are always present in our conversations. Therefore, in our case I think, I think we can say that maybe “form follows discussion” or “form follows context”.
What is the most difficult work you have realized and why?
We think it was the Cavalcante House. It was built in an isolated plot of land located hours away from the nearest town. The dirt road that leads to the terrain is only accessible by 4×4 vehicles or small trucks. Therefore, the supply of construction materials was restricted, as was our possibility to visit the construction site. All these difficulties ended up driving the main choices of the project, from the choice of construction materials to their dimensions, form, and materiality. We think that this project also reflects very well our “method” of approach to any project.
What is the relationship between architecture and nature? Can they really coexist?
Architecture transforms nature to adapt it to the needs of the human life. Therefore, we believe architecture and nature can (and should) coexist harmoniously. A building cannot exist as an isolated element, we are aware that it will always interfere with the landscape and in a certain way will “destroy” part of nature. Therefore, we believe that our duty is to think about the importance of this transformation by asking ourselves one very important question: what will we put in the place of what we will remove? Our concern is reflected on several fronts, from the way we deal with the existing topography/vegetation and the way we try to maximize the use of natural ventilation and lighting, for example, to the importance we put on the analysis of each context to try to find the best way to build our projects, depending on the situation.