Isa and I met because of a common friend of ours. Even though in Brazil we have to chose our profession very early (compared to other counties), Isa and I always knew that we would follow architecture and urbanism as a carrier path, and that always linked us. Isa comes from a family of creators (architect dad, designer mom, filmmaker sister and architect husband), and her skills and design gift just complemented the crew. She is so talented, visionary and with a greater heart. As you will see in the interview, her projects and aim towards sustainability (professionally and personally) are very inspirational.
“We drastically impacted the nature and nonhumans animals, as well as we lost the balance as community. Targeting sustainability is the way we have to restore the harmony.”
What is sustainability for you?
Sustainability, for me, is a goal, unfortunately, very distant from what we have as a society but yet we are able to strive and get closer in order to achieve it. We are animal and culture. Our society, Western mainly (the one I am inserted at) escape by privileging the rationalization, competition, excessive profit and by disconsidering that humans belong to nature. Therefore, we drastically impacted the nature and non-human animals, as well as we lost the balance as a community. Targeting sustainability is the way we have to restore this harmony.
In your perspective, how can architecture and urbanism improve the future of the cities?
Countries are in different levels of development within the world, and I think that this question can have a different approaches according to where you are at. The Brazilian society (my reality) is extremely uneven and that changes everything – inequality of income, education, treatment towards justice, etc. Those uneven situations are building up the way that people think and act: the tolerance of the society in relation to injustices, corruption, as well as city scape and its architecture.
As architects and urbanists, unfortunately, we don’t completely control the spaces. The spaces are inhabited by people with fear, insecurity, dreams, love and hate – and many times the societal codes overlap our urban acts. Our work is to design and plan the future, and it is our responsibility to introduce “responsible materials” towards our projects (meaning getting away from the standard and actual construction sector); as well as insert new usabilities that can motivate healthier behaviors: cooperation and diversity coexistence, unrestricted access, cohabitation between humans, animals and vegetation; appreciation of history and culture; valuing life. In Brazil, among different areas of expertise, architecture and urbanism aims for social sustainability in order to build and motivate active and responsible citizens, with minimal rights, demanding public policies and by valuing environmental sustainability.
Can you present us your company and the project “Street, city and Intention” (“Rua, Cidade e Intuito”)? How did the idea start? What is the main goal of your proposal?
Oficina Urbana de Arquitetura – OUA is my office in partnership with Luiz Gustavo Singeski (co-founder and husband). Our main goal is to think, to intervene and to design new and existing cities through architectural and urban projects, planning and consultancy for the private and public sector, as well as by acting punctual and decisively towards a sustainable urban development. We are based in Curitiba, and also work within culture – audiovisual productions, interventions and free lectures – as we believe that the image of a city doesn’t build up only by its own functionality but together with its art, imaginations, memories and myths.
In the exhibition “Street, City and Intent”, presented at the Municipal Museum of Art (MuMA) in Curitiba, as part of the exhibition called Architecture for Curitiba 2017, we launched a new perspective for the central part of the city. The project was the result of 6 months work, aided by a team of students from two federal universities, UFPR and UTFPR.
The set of streets and sidewalks compose a big part of public spaces within a city. Tours are, by nature, dividing landmarks between individual and collective spaces. In a way they are the first point of contact between citizens and the city, as access to different services and city life. They can be used to invite people not only to walk, but also to participate in urban activities. Invitations to sit, observe, exercise, play, interact and express themselves. By this understanding , we proposed a series of interventions in the territory under study and its legislation, both on physical and regulatory nature. The result, based on an extensive diagnosis, was a new guideline and urban strategies to achieve within the region.
Among the points listed in the diagnostic phase, it is worth mentioning the existence of streets that are mostly unattractive. with low spatial quality and almost no space for pedestrians. Based on these analyzes, our team designed a new vision for the future of the area, through guidelines on the qualification of public roads, by encouraging the usage of public transport, by combating real estate speculation, by meeting social functions of the city and property, by encouraging income diversity & reduction of the housing deficit, by motivating different usages, by reduction of environmental impact and, finally, by valorization of the city’s identity – one of the greatest legacies of Curitiba.
This work is not only an exercise, but a continuous research towards a new perception of the city and its socio-cultural, physical-spatial, economical and legislative codes. Those define the interface of day-to-day life, in becoming and in morphology, not only of Curitiba but all cities. The city is the synthesis of society, and street is the synthesis of the city. The street is a place and places overflow intent. And yet, what is the end of the street? What is the purpose behind streets we design, build and live? If the city is a collective dream, what is our city dream?
Finally, the result was a proposal to requalify one of the most important roads of Curitiba: Avenida Sete de Setembro. The avenue would resemble a pedestrian promenade, where vehicles would only pass to access the buildings, and would have passages on street level for the pedestrians. Additionally, tracks for Express Buses (BRT), means of transport that made Curitiba famous worldwide, and flower beds for implementing vegetation as well as protecting pedestrians against vehicles and nudging them towards crossings.
New urban equipment and furniture would be installed (benches, flower boxes, kiosks, bike parking, rental bikes, and others) in order to motivate the usage of the avenue and increase its vitality. Last, but not least, improve the efficiency of the transport system by implementing an intelligent traffic system with sensor which may detect the proximity of busses and therefore preventing them to stop at intersections.
“Street, city and Intention” was part of an exhibition called Architecture for Curitiba – Expo2017: Architecture as interface. Different projects were suggested in order to present new possibilities for the city-scape. How, in your opinion, those projects can influence citizens, as well as the municipality and developers to improve the city life/structure?
One of the great legacies of urban planning for Curitiba was the establishment of an identity as an important factor of the city; but especially the creation of an identity linked to culture, history and sustainability, which was part of the “idea” of Curitiba, not only for the class of architects and engineers, but also for the entire population. This exhibition is important because brings together people interested in donating their time and experience to think about the future of the city and encourage a collective culture again. Thus, new possibilities of urban spatialisation gets in the imaginary of professionals and laypeople, which in the future, can bring public policies towards sustainability in the economic, social and environmental sense.
You mentioned that you are currently studying sustainability on your Master’s studies. Why did you choose this specialisation? And within the studies, which topic most catches your attention?
I am currently studying my master in the Sustainability in the Built Environment, at the Federal University of Paraná, but my dissertation gets a bit away from what sustainability is related lately. My teacher, Prof. Dr. Aloisio Schmid, is Professor of Environmental Comfort in the Architecture & Urbanism course of this same institution, and over the years he became a little critical to the idea of what comfort is.
Thus, my dissertation has been expanded on the idea of environmental comfort, based on the inference of the great majority in the academic domain, disregard their socio-cultural aspects, by taking only into account the quantification of temperature, humidity, ventilation, adequate sunshine for each type of activity. Most of scientific articles formulate uncritical theories and establish comfort as an indisputable requirement, not only in intimate spaces of recollection, but of all spaces, for all activities; however, each human activity needs a state of mind, and those are according its spatialities of different atmospheres. My dissertation analyzes recent theories, establishing, besides the comfort, other atmospheres of our life systems by exploring the translation of those atmospheres towards the constructed space.
How do you see the future of architecture and sustainability?
From what I have studied in my master’s degree, I see that the future of our buildings is closely linked to sustainability strategies and those seems to lead to a path of simplicity: natural, local materials with minimal impact and vernacular construction techniques. I believe that our future is to establish a lifestyle and construction that leaves no impact or trace when we are extinguished.
Who are your references when talking about design and liveability? Has any person or a great project influenced you?
While studying architecture, a team of friends and I, started filming a documentary, entitled “Beyond the Model – 50 years of architecture in Curitiba”, which aimed to record the several architects responsible for urbanism and architecture that made Curitiba famous worldwide. At this time, Luiz (now my partner and husband) and I worked as trainees in the office Jaime Lerner Arquitetos Associados, and there we got contact with many of these architects we wanted to interview. The process of constructing this documentary, which we are finalizing now, was very enriching for me in this sense, as we were able to record interviews with several personalities references in our area and learn from their personal and professional experiences of how their work and their construction of life and choices can, together with other people, change the whole way of building a city. Of these great architects and engineers who interviewed the conversation with the architect Jorge Wilheim had a great impact on my way of thinking.
Wilheim welcomed us in his office in Sao Paulo on a Sunday morning, talked about his way of thinking urbanism, the process of creating the master plan of Curitiba, and how it was implemented. Besides of being a solicitous and cordial person, at the age of 86, he possessed a vision without addiction on what a future city should be and about the importance of city planning which considers the range of regions as a whole (not only municipal boundary). Creating cities for people and solving the problems of citizens in a non-technocratic and authoritarian way. Unfortunately the architect died a few months after our conversation.
From my time at Jaime Lerner’s office I took the essence of what I consider to be a sustainable city, which privileges citizens and which is built by considering economy, society and environment. One of the projects that I discovered in this period, by Jaime Lerner, was the “Piracema Channel”, created for rafting competition during Nature Games and held when the architect was governor of Paraná.. The 6,000-meter-long canal, between the reservoir of the Itaipu Plant and the Paraná River, allows the migration of fish that ascend from the rivers during the breeding period (Piracema period). Every project at the office had this level of intelligence built in, and those empowered on me what sustainability really is and what is the legacy of a building. Those advices, intelligent but uncomplicated urbanism, are so rich and deep that they grew within me throughout the years.
Clearly, sustainability is part of your professional scope, but how is it also part of your personal life? Any tips, life routine or person that has inspired you?
Personally I aim for sustainability by reducing my consumption – I buy little, usually in second hand stores. I try to live a very simple life, I do not use car very often as I live very close to my work. I try to use few industrialized products – I cook meals for my family, and therefore we reduce our recyclable garbage to a minimum and our organic garbage becomes fertilizer in our compost. I try to create a healthy work environment and, tame my ego and work collaboratively with my colleagues. I am comprehensive and constantly show my affections and respect within my personal relationships.
It was four years ago when I woke up to understand the role I wanted to play in the world by taking responsibility of my acts, and by creating a routine that keeps me healthier and with less impact on the environment.
In addition, my sister developed a work as an autonomous protector of animals (in most of Brazilian cities there is a serious case of abandonment of domestic animals). In 10 years she rescued more than 500 animals by giving them a family. She, as well as a filmmaker, has several films related to animal cause and managed educative sites on animals abandonment. Those actions made me see the disadvantages we inflict on nonhuman animals, leaving them completely hostage to our consumerist lifestyle, with lower value and by empowering objects. After that I became a vegetarian, then a vegan and I also work as an autonomous protector, making ransom and assigning animals to responsible tutors.
Sustainable living mode does not have to do only with simplicity and functionality, but with the way you appreciate your life and care about the planet. How do you think this project can influence a change?
Your project gives voice to people whom think and live sustainably in some way, which is the most important thing. To learn from many examples, to gradually build and expand our collective notion of what would be a sustainable life in different aspects. This is the only way to build a viable future for our species – collaborative and privileging a greater scope. Either we grow up together with respect and appreciation of life, or we probably won’t have a very long future ahead of us.
You can check more of her work at www.oficinaurbana.com.br.
Interview by Camila Buschle
Isabela Fiori, 1989
Architect & Urban Designer
Founder of OUA
Currently living in Curitiba
Images and film by OUA