Bia Lessa, Carla Juaçaba,

Federico Cairoli , Leonardo Finotti,

New York, USA, Rio de Janeiro, Venice, Italy,

Biennale Architettura 2018, Shorefront for Art and Architecture,

Carla Juaçaba is an architect who aims to provoke and feed the participatory imagination of her audience, through a rich synthesis of provocations expressed in the essentiality of her interventions. The concept that feeds her design stems from the belief that incompleteness is an inexhaustible source of inspiration, able to continually renew itself, and that abstract helps to make the invisible visible.

<strong>CARLA JUAÇABA</strong>
The United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development has chosen Rio de Janeiro as city of its 2012 venue and a young Brazilian architect has been engaged for designing the temporary pavilion to host the mega-summit. It is with a simple yet extremely bold audacious gesture that Carla Juaçaba, only 34 years old, has imposed herself on the attention of the world. An important occasion, that she demonstrated to manage with the experience and dexterity of a consummate professional. Went to the site with a friend, Bia Lessa, filmmaker and theater director, to explore the location and analysis how to implement a proposal able to convey such an urgent message with coherent immediacy and also the strength to involve everyone as directly responsible for a possible change, they decided, noting stacked scaffolding bases, that they could compose the entire structure and represent the perfect elements to give an adequate voice to a program that aimed, through greener and fairer goals, to ensure 'The Future We Want’.
That's how it was born the suspended walkway which welcomes with a over 1 kilometer long promenade on the promontory of Copacabana fort, that extends over two legendary beaches of Brazil, with a view, simultaneously, on the rapid, dense urbanization of the metropolitan center. The material that has been utilized, in addition to offer an exemplary lesson of sustainability, satisfies the other need that intended to make visitors aware. The tubular steel modules, without requiring transport costs and impacting the ground, leave their traditional support function to transform themselves into a building, and they will be in the future readapted to new requirements. Above this perfect example of circular economy, they physically expose the public to ‘light, heat, rain, sounds of waves and wind’, so that everyone is confronted not only visually but also emotionally with a natural scenario that, as it can fascinate, can equally disturb. The direct contact, without protective filters, with powerful natural forces can make feel more intensely the sense of fragility and to be at the mercy of a reality difficult to manage if not respected.

It is with pride that Carla underlines that "the pavilion doesn’t produce an image of the future but  instead has the capacity of proving what is materially and ecologically possible in the present”. The reference is addressed to the local situation and implies that sustainability must be related to a precise geographical and social context. Humanidade, the title she has assigned to her creation, reaffirms the concept, amplifying and emphasizing it in its global meaning, among waving flags of all the world’s nations, adorning the long bar, divided into ramps and buffered in some points with plywood panels to delimit exhibition and conference rooms. The complex intertwining network creates a charismatic presence, a huge parallelepiped perfectly legible in its three-dimensionality, an exaltation of 'openness without discrimination' and a contemporary invitation, free from rhetoric, to interactivity.
Rewarded for the great originality and determination she has proven conceiving and completing such a courageous and demanding proposal, she will maintain these prerogatives unchanged producing with absolute consistency new works marked by maximum linearity, an apparent simplicity, full of multiple meanings and references. By presenting her realizations, she often refers to the theater, considering architecture very similar to this artistic discipline, contemplating both, as Aldo Rossi states, an event, whether it happens or does not take place. “I always believed” Rossi writes “that places are stronger than people, the fixed scene is stronger than the story. I compared all this to theater, and people are like actors when the lights in the theater are on, they involve you in an affair to which you might be strangers”. This could mean that architects build the stage space and the artists animate it through the staging and representation of the drama of life. Just as theater cannot exist without the relationship that is established between the actor and the spectator, a relationship that Carla examines above all in a 'poor theater', which proceeds for eradication of all superfluous, arriving to focus on the full expression of the spirit, so her creations, synthesis of essentiality, inspired by abstraction, live thanks to the emotional participation and subjective interpretation of those who approach them.

The notoriety procured by the project for Rio + 20 will grant her to be called for a prestigious appointment. The Venice Architecture Biennale 2018 will see her involvement with two proposals. 'Ballast', is her answer for 'Freespace': a series of prototype benches, large blocks of concrete assembled in misaligned totemic verticality connected with long ropes for sitting. A moment of pause and rest in the tiring journey at the Giardini, a composition that behind the elementary appearance hides an elaborate implementation process, taking inspiration and citing, as Carla usually does, two important references to the Venetian tradition, the navy ropes once produced at the Corderie in the Arsenale and the huge concrete blocks used as sea defenses.

'Ballast' for the Venice Architecture Biennale 2018, Carla Juaçaba - Photo © Federico Cairoli 

During this same occasion the Vatican decided to participate for the first time with a Holy See Pavilion curated by Francesco Dal Co. The choice fell on a secluded and extremely suggestive corner of the island of San Giorgio Maggiore, an enclave that extends for about one and a half hectares, suspended in the middle of the lagoon, between water, sky and earth. This 'Wood' area of the Cini Foundation, with the evocative force of its metaphorical value, a strong reference to the human continuous wandering in search of themselves, has been destined for the setting of 10 chapels, by inviting as many internationally renowned architects to punctuate the path of this labyrinth with reference points embodying a contemporary spirituality.

It is the small 'Chapel in the woods' by Gunnar Asplund, built in 1920 for the cemetery in Stockholm, defined in the words of its author as a  “place of orientation, encounter and meditation, seemingly formed by chance or natural forces inside a vast forest, seen as the physical suggestion of the labyrinthine progress of life”, that inspires the directions of the project and the fundamental function of architecture. At the end, the 10 presences, scattered throughout the natural environment, trace an eclectic itinerary that, free from canonical schemes, intends to establish a dialogue between culture and society, between nature and architecture, speaking of spirituality not necessarily linked to a religious belief.
Carla among famous architects, as Eduardo Souto de Moura and Norman Foster, has catalyzed the general interest with an intervention as iconic as minimalist. Four long, slender chromed steel beams emblematically synthesize the two most relevant moments of Christian spirituality. They intersect to form a cross and a bench: the first stretches upwards, in an evident ascetic longing for eternity while the second, lying on seven concrete slabs marking the ground, invites the community and expresses itself in terms of temporality. Both mirrored surfaces remind us the alternation of an earthly existence and the need for transcendence. The sign, which holds a strong iconographic connotation, is exemplar in its purity. It appears and disappears playing on the dichotomy of physicality and immateriality: it is in this symbolism that it finds its true essence.

The tendency towards an architecture capable of weaving textures is once again confirmed, an architecture that makes use of a very concise language and forms of expression but which renews narrations through the contributions of other voices, of the public crowding the scene, continually conquering with some new nuances that had not been grasped and caught yet. Also the tradition finds its authority thanks to a reading key exalting its highest values ​​and thanks to the courage of not denying but re-proposing it in impetus of pantheism and momentum transcending secularity. The pure geometric form, isolated in a glade surrounded and protected by trees, a situation that nurtures contemplative moments, contributes to an atmosphere of intense lyricism.
There are antithetical characteristics which, although seeming irreconcilable, coexist in Carla Juaçaba's works, producing unexpected results: all the projects, from the most daring to those apparently less provocative, are the product of her great pragmatism and hide complex technical processes of construction. Above a meticulous attention to the smallest details, they surprisingly emanate very poetic accents, which have nothing to do with the rigid composure that distinguishes them. Pragmatism and poetry, heaviness and lightness complement each other and, even if the creations are anchored to the ground, light often transfigures them into abstractions, highlighting the essentiality that is their soul. What the shadow produces on the cross and the stainless steel bench, resembles this kind of effect, making them at certain moments disappear from our sight, or assimilating them with the natural context and assigning them to eternity.

Speaking about that open architecture, which reveals and does not conceal, as Carla prefers, with credentials that can make everyone more actively participant in a common public life, there is a particularly explicit installation, which is addressed with absolute originality, as an open condemnation, against an antithetical architecture, at the service of political will, used as a propaganda tool to reassure and make people believe with its solidity and grandeur in a future of growth and progress, when the reality appears totally different. Referring to the civil buildings and monumental plan assigned to Oscar Niemeyer for the new capital of Brazil, Brasilia, which was intended to impose itself as an emblem of social, political and economic development, she has conceived a project that aimed to expose the explicit political agenda interpreted by the constructions. 'Ministry for All' is the title that, with bitter and pungent irony, refers to the ambitious central administrative district, the new seat of the nation, a series of seventeen colossal government buildings all alike that flank the central avenue, monumental axis, of the city, which would suggest with their grandiose formal structures a sense of stability, in spite of the continuous change and uninterrupted succession of administrations they theatrically mask. The proposal once again surprises with its simple powerful emblematic force capable to communicate complexity. Hosted by the legendary New York gallery Storefront for Art and Architecture, a reference point in the global cultural scene, known for promoting emerging creative talents, Carla removes the concrete panels of the iconic pivot openings of the famous façade, designed by Steven Holl and the artist Vito Acconci, placing them on display in the internal exhibition space, leaving the structural parts that compose them visible on the street front. Materials used for construction such as plywood partitions, insulating foam, cracks, dirt marks and graffiti remain exposed. The function of embellishment has been eliminated, offering visitors a reading of the two orders, external and internal, public and private, not in the rigidly, commonly respected sequence but reversed. The intention of this subversion of roles is clear: there should be more coherence between the way in which the spaces are used and the intentions that are officially alleged. Excessive architectural theatricality only increases its vulnerability.

Virginia Cucchi 


Carla Juaçaba : https://www.carlajuacaba.com.br/
Cover: Vatican Chapel: Carla Juaçaba - Photo © Federico Cairoli 
01-07 : Humanidade Pavilion Rio+ 20 : Carla Juaçaba + Bia Lessa , Photo © Leonardo Finotti & (08 photo) Celso Brando
09-17 : Ballast: Carla Juaçaba - Photo © Federico Cairoli 
18-22 : Vatican Chapel: Carla Juaçaba - Photo © Federico Cairoli 
23-24 : Ministry for All : Shorefront for Art and Architecture : Carla Juaçaba + Marcelo Cidade


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