Innovation & Design

Architecture in Recession: Brazil


The economic crisis has architects hurting around the world. This series reports on the state of design from Germany to India. First up, a look at S?o Paulo

Brazil Builds was the title of the Museum of Modern Art's famous 1944 exhibition on Brazilian modern architecture, a show that offered a promising design panorama at a dangerous moment in world history. Today, the world faces a different kind of moment, but one similarly shadowed by economic fear. In Brazil, architects are trying to maintain a steady perspective??either optimistic nor gloomy.

After growing by 5.3 percent in 2008, Brazil's GDP will increase just 2.7 percent this year, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit. Seen from the U.S., that number looks pretty good. In Brazil, economic instability and its aftereffects are no novelty, and most people have perfected the art of dealing with crises and moving on. Local architects report some recent setbacks on projects, but no sense of paralysis. "Even though we've had to make some adjustments, we've managed to keep our team working," says Roberto Aflalo Filho, a partner of Aflalo & Gasperini, a S??o Paulo firm with almost 100 architects on staff. Having weathered economic storms in the past, even the most successful Brazilian firms remain small compared to North American practices and they have learned to be flexible, growing and shrinking with each financial tide.

Jorge Konigsberger, a partner at K&V Architects, another prominent S??o Paulo office, notes that "the cascade effect that will follow this interruption in new projects will reach the market only in the second half of 2009." K&V and Aflalo & Gasperini are betting on a joint venture project in Dubai, and are working for international investors in Brazil.

Small and midsize firms, which are less involved in commercial projects, are doing okay. For example, Fernanda Barbara, a partner at UNA Arquitetos is relying on institutional work; his Bandeirantes Metro Station in S??o Paulo is set to start construction soon.

Luciano Margotto, a partner at Nucleo de Arquitetura looks at the recession and says, "Here the crisis is not too tough since the euphoria was never too great." While working on a variety of building types??uch as hospitals, schools, institutional buildings and houses??is firm recently won, with architect Alvaro Puntoni of Grupo SP Architects, a competition for the new headquarters in Brazilia of SEBRAE (a national organization that provides support to the development of small and medium enterprises). Construction is scheduled to begin in 2009.

Mario Biselli, a partner at Biselli & Katchborian Architects, expresses a contained optimism. He acknowledges that some of his firm's commercial real-state projects have being postponed, but reports that other clients have not been affected by the recession yet. His firm won a competition for the new Florian??polis International Airport in Santa Catarina State and the project is set to start construction in the few months. He also expects his Pimentas Sports and Cultural facilities in Guarulhos, in the S??o Paulo metropolitan area, to begin construction soon.

Even outside S??o Paulo, architects seem to be moving forward with most of their work. For example, Gustavo Penna, the director of Penna Architects in Belo Horizonte, says that his office of about 25 architects has had only one project recently discontinued.

Architecture in Recession: United Kingdom

Architecture in Recession: U.A.E

Architecture in Recession: China

Architecture in Recession: Germany

Architecture in Recession: India

Architecture in Recession: Japan

Architecture in Recession: Spain

Provided by Architectural Record??he Resource for Architecture and Architects

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