Drawing the Shade

architect Gustavo Utrabo
interviewed by Guilherme Wisnik

In this interview, Gustavo Utrabo discusses his recent projects with a special focus on the students’ homes in Canuanã in the Amazon. By explaining his point of view, which states that the building in the remote Brazilian regions should be rationalized, the architect enters into a dialogue with the tradition and local knowledge without becoming nostalgic or populist. Rather than a new architectural language in Brazil, he advocates the use of different energy matrixes in building, while constantly developing, like a poetic motto, the design of the shaded havens in the tropical climate that offer people protection and the opportunity to socialize.  


Oris: Let us start with the student homes in Canuanã and Tocantins – what was the process of devising those projects like?


Gustavo Utrabo: The project was created by Pedro Duschenes, Marcelo Rosenbaum and I. I find it interesting on many levels – from the standpoint of the building process as well as from the standpoint of understanding the area that is radically different from everything we are familiar with because it is a non-urban context. Thus, this project also enabled us to consider some very remote Brazilian sites. To reflect on it, it was necessary to understand the context and devise a dynamic that would enable the children to feel as though they belong, to understand their roots, and it goes much further than that which is shown on television. Understanding that context while, at the same time, developing ideas on how to build in such a place was quite a challenge. It was important to understand the possibility of building with prefabricated elements and to try and comprehend an entirely different energy matrix, and that, I believe, is the fundamental issue when it comes to the state progress.