Carla Juaçaba
Carla Juaçaba (Rio de Janeiro, Brasil, 1976).

Since 2000, Carla Juaçaba developed her independent practice of architecture and research based in Rio de Janeiro. Her office is currently engaged in both cultural programs and private projects.

After graduated she worked on the Atelier House, Rio Bonito House, Varanda House, Santa Teresa House, and a couple of exhibition design. The ephemeral Pavilion Humanidade 2012 for Rio+20 was conceived with the theater director Bia Lessa.
- Carla Juaçaba is constantly part of the academic and teaching realms, as well as research studies and Lectures Harvard GSD; Columbia University GSAPP; Academia di Architettura Mendrisio. Workshop at IUAV di Venezia 2014; Jury at BIAU Bienal Ibero Americana in Madrid 2012. She won the first edition of the international prize ArcVision Women and Architecture 2013 in Italy. She is participating at the Venice Architecture Biennale 2018 with the project BALLAST, and also built one of the Vatican Chapels for the Holy See Pavilion.
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When you were a child what did you want to be when you were older?
I had a grandmother who was a painter in the north of Brazil and she was my biggest and most important inspiration. She had a fantastic art library I used to spend all my vacation in when I travelled up from Rio (de Janeiro). That was the beginning, having the opportunity to be with her.
What was your favourite subject at school?
My university - Santa Úrsula - was mainly organised by artists of Brazil such as Lygia Pape, who was a very important educator. She constructed the architecture work in such a way so that it always related to art, making it a very experimental school.
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Casa Rio Bonito, Lumiar, Brazil, 2005 (Ph.© Nelson Kon)
What was your educational path?
Very experimental since the beginning, because I studied as a child in a Jean Piaget education school, and I would say this experimentation continued at Santa Úrsula.
What is your approach to architecture?
I am not sure if it is changing or getting more mature, but when I work with students now, I am starting to take a different path. I am becoming more concerned with the idea of sustainability. There was a moment when we had to build something for the Rio+20 United Nations Conference for Sustainable Development (Pavilion Humanidade 2012), and of course it needed to be sustainable. The theatre director and filmmaker Bia Lessa invited me to make this work with her, which was for me very important, and there was a concern initially from her about making an exhibition in a plastic tent with air conditioning in Copacabana. Therefore she decided to look for an architect concerned with the issue of sustainability, and indeed it was important considering the conference itself was addressing these questions.

Following Bia’s invitation, when we arrived on site we found a scaffold structure supporting an air conditioned tent. Questioning this, the idea came to remove the tent and continue this temporary structure 20 meters high, 170 meters wide, and have the exhibition space inside these immense walls. So in a way it was a response to the site - there is always some sort of scaffold supporting something.

Beginning the second year teaching in Mendrisio now, I would like to bring this idea to my students: reflect upon where you are and bring this into your architecture. The specific response to the site is crucial.
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Vatican Chapel, San Giorgio Maggiore, Venice, Italy, 2018 (Ph.© Federico Cairoli)
What was your first built project? How has your architectural practice evolved since then?
My first built project was Casa Rio Bonito: a house made of two stone walls supporting four steel beams. It was almost irresponsible in the way I realised this house, I was too young and I was not aware of the problems of constructing like that and in such an experimental manner. For example the walls...they were permeable to water, and it took years to resolve this after. Thankfully the owners love the house, despite the problems! In a way, working so experimentally with almost no drawings, making so many decisions on site, was a response to the simplicity of the idea for the house. Of course there was an engineer involved on the project, but I didn’t feel the need to make an amount of drawings such as for other projects, because of the choice of materials and the relative simplicity this brought with it.

Since then there were many housing projects and exhibition designs, then what changed it was the Pavilion Humanidade because it was another scale and another impact after the publication: I’m sure the chapel I completed in Venice comes from this.
What particular aspects of your background and upbringing have shaped your design principles and philosophies?
To live in Rio (de Janeiro), or Brazil, is to live in coexistence with nature. This is important to me and something I tell my students in Mendrisio. Made from scaffolding, Pavilion Humanidade subjected the visitor to nature, to wind and rain, and so reminded them of how fragile we really are - something we can only really understand when safe inside.
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Ballast, Venice, Italy, 2018 (Ph.© Federico Cairoli)
How do other creative fields influence your architectural work?
For a very long time I was not so interested in Architecture, but fascinated with theatre and the arts. When I was a student I did a workshop with Jean-Guy Lecat, the scenographer of Peter Brook and it was the most fascinating thing I had ever done, it was wonderful to see another creative field like that and afterwards I said I wanted to create architecture as Peter Brook creates theatre; he communicates with few elements (in a non-minimalist sense) but constructs many images. The chapel at Venice had a lot to do with this: symbolic and with a minimal number of elements.
How do you remember yourself as an architecture student?
Immersed in the plastic classes. Concentrated on lectures other than architecture, you could say, out of my field.
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Casa en Santa Teresa, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 2017 (Ph. © Federico Cairoli)
The key features of your architecture.
I would say looking for something that responds to a geographic point or problem while being in coexistence with nature; and holistically concerned with that in itself, never with the image. The Pavilion Humanidade for example, is as a temporary building fascinating, but as a permanent building...Horrible! Reflecting on this, the idea of beauty itself relative.
You have worked independently under your own name for your entire career. How do you think this has shaped you as an architect?
I am fortunate to have been given the projects so far in my career, but I myself did not expect it to happen like so. If it hadn’t happened like this, I hadn’t been commissioned for the houses or exhibition designs, I might have even happily changed my path to stage design. I was never totally sure or attached to architecture, it continued because things started happening. However, that has since changed, now I am more concerned to reflect upon my discipline, as I do continuously through teaching and beginning my PhD.
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Casa Varanda, Rio de janeiro, Brazil, 2007 (Ph. © Federico Cairoli)
You are currently teaching in Accademia di Architettura di Mendrisio and you are part of and lectures at the Columbia University GSAPP and Harvard GSD.What does teaching architecture represent to you?
I am totally immersed in the problem of Rio de Janeiro and bringing this to my students. The studio - Imaginary Boundaries - begins by looking at the kilometer upon kilometer long border between the city and the forest, between which there is no interaction, or at least intelligent interaction, not even for leisure. It’s an important topic that again comes back to the question of how we coexist with nature. Presently, Bolsonaro is destroying the rainforest in Brazil, but it is less his problem than all of our problems. Therefore I am working on this border to the Favela’s, which ever expands into the forest, and with which no one even in the city knows what to do. There is a lot that needs to be provided for, so in their projects the students design housing and one more thing, something for the public. It gives them an opportunity to discover another reality, one outside of Switzerland which is more in need of help. Some students don’t like it at all and have expressed their dissatisfaction, which continues to surprise me, but thankfully many are fascinated and more concerned with making it their problem.

There have been some beautiful studio responses following my visit last year to Santa Marta where the government wants to construct a concrete wall along the border they call ‘eco-limit’, to avoid the expansion of the Favela. It’s an awful idea reminiscent of the Berlin wall, and a decision based on prejudice.
Does teaching activity influence your work?
Interactions with students force important reflections upon you. It can mean asking ourselves about the way we are behaving and if we are working in the correct way; it creates a responsible ideal we can measure ourselves against to ensure we are doing our best to prepare each other for the inevitable challenges we will face in the future.
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Casa Rio Bonito, Lumiar, Brazil, 2005 (Ph.© Nelson Kon)
A project or building you would like to realise
The Ministry for All in Brasilia: a utopian project that at least in this political moment could be a monument to our suffering democracy. It would offer a place for public discussion, where one could follow the activities of all ministries without any kind of interface with the media, among other actions.
Along the way, what is the best advice you have received, and is there one piece of advice in particular which you would share with young architects and architecture students?
To students I would say look at our discipline through the lens of another. In Mendrisio I am going to bring geographers, sociologists, researchers, into the studio, as I think it’s a wonderful way to get into the project - through the eyes of for example, Paola Bernstein Jacques, a fantastic woman in Brazil who has extensively researched the favelas in Rio de Janeiro. Reading a book like her "Estética Da Ginga" is, I think, a wonderful way to begin exploring the topic before returning to our own discipline.
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Casa en Santa Teresa, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 2017 (Ph. © Federico Cairoli)
Is there a book which is of particular importance to you as an architect?
Concerning architecture, Kenneth Frampton’s fantastic "Studies in Tectonic Culture". In other fields I can’t recommend exactly what I read, but to explore and get passionate about what inspires you. The book “Open Circle” of Jean-Guy Lecat about Peter Brook is a wonderful reading for architects.
People who were of particular influence to you during your architectural education:
In Brazil and in architecture, Paulo Mendes da Rocha and Lina Bo Bardi; from theatre Peter Brook; in poetry Wislawa Szymborska in critical text and poems Octavio Paz.
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Casa en Santa Teresa, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 2017 (Ph. © Federico Cairoli)
An instance of architecture important to you:
I think the most beautiful example of architecture in Brazil is Vilanova Artigas’s Faculty of Architecture building for the University of São Paulo. It’s a wonderful public space, and the most beautiful school of architecture I have ever seen. It represents the type of Brazilain architecture that wants to aggregate people to create an important meeting point and place of discussion. It’s truly beautiful.
A piece of art important to you:
The moment when Peter Brook moves pieces of Bamboo to make different images. I love this type of ephemeral art - it doesn’t remain outside of the memory, but in the memory it is imprinted. There are parallels in this to the ever-changing favela’s and to Rio’s fantastic carnaval - built, performed and after one hour destroyed. As desperately positive as architecture is, I wish I could make projects more easily in architecture that are as ephemeral.
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Casa en Santa Teresa, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 2017 (Ph. © Federico Cairoli)
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Ballast, Venice, Italy, 2018 (Ph.© Federico Cairoli)
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Vatican Chapel, San Giorgio Maggiore, Venice, Italy, 2018 (Ph.© Federico Cairoli)
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Casa Varanda, Rio de janeiro, Brazil, 2007 (Ph. © Federico Cairoli)
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Humanidade Pavilion, Rio de janeiro, Brazil, 2012 (Ph. © Leonardo Finotti)
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Casa Varanda, Rio de janeiro, Brazil, 2007 (Ph. © Federico Cairoli)
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Casa en Santa Teresa, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 2017 (Ph. © Federico Cairoli)
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