Meeting with Architect Marko Brajovic

09 January, 2017

While we’re in Sao Paulo for a top-secret project (follow along on Instagram at #ChandelierDoesSaoPaulo), we thought we’d introduce you to some of our favorite people in the city. Architect Marko Brajovic uses nature and indigenous culture as a powerful inspiration and resource for his projects. Originally born in Montenegro, spend his childhood in Croatia, he studied in Venice, Italy, postgraduate in Barcelona before moving to Sao Paulo 11 years ago. In addition to many architectural projects, he also leads workshops in the middle of the Amazon forest and is releasing his first book, “In Nature We Trust,” this April. We chatted with Marko about his passionate love for the forest and how he uses it to build timeless houses and memorable experiences.

You’re interested in biomimicry (sustainable design inspired by nature). How did you become interested in it, and how does it fit into architecture?

I graduated in Venice studying classical architecture. I moved to Barcelona and I did my post-grad work in Digital Arts and Digital Interactive Technology. When I got into architecture, I was interested in the interaction between the body and space, and how that could be used in interactive technology, audiovisual installations, performance, and theatre.

Shortly after graduating, we formed a group of architects, designers, and artists known as Su-Studio and were invited by a client to design her house in Costa Rica, in the middle of the tropical forest. We didn’t know anything about nature and the environment. So we found ourselves living on the beach in Costa Rica for a year. This client was inspired by the music of Eric Satie, and wanted us to design the house around that. Using parametric software, we identified the frequency of the music, in order to interpret it as architecture, and found that the most suitable material to do that was bamboo. I found myself researching this amazing organism, and I fell in love with bamboo, and with nature. Nature is now a hi-tech solution for my projects. In 2005 I enrolled in a Master’s program in Genetic Architecture (IUC Barcelona), which also looks like digital architecture inspired by biomimetics. Nature has become the biggest inspiration for me; it has the best hi-tech solutions.

So you study nature… but indigenous practices also come into play, don’t they?

Yes. In Costa Rica in 2002, I came into contact with the Naso-Teribé, a small indigenous tribe. From them, I learned weeding techniques. I got really fascinated by how indigenous cultures have been exploiting nature for more than 15,000 years. Their relationship with nature is very deep and technical; they’re technicians of the forest. A few projects I’ve done come straight from the indigenous culture. While I was visiting the Ashaninka tribe and following their psychotropic rituals, I had visions of polygonal structural systems and that manifest in our Poranduba Opera project. was inspired by Asuriní houses when I designed the ARCA house in Paraty.

Can you tell us more about the materials you used in the ARCA house? They don’t seem to come from the forest.

No, not at all. And that’s what I want. ARCA was inspired by a typical Oca indigenous house (means house in indigenous language) but I want the final house to be futuristic. I’m interested in the typology, in the living concept, in the structure, but I’m not mimicking really, or copying the materials. I like the contrast between the building’s materials and nature’s in the forest as a hybrid approach. The modulation of the textures from the shelter metal structure mimic natural strategies of palm trees.

There’s a big room inside, with a big space for family activities.Is that inspired by Asurini culture, too?

Usually, in Western culture, we have a bedroom, a living room, a kitchen: all these spaces that are divided. We spend around eight hours in our bedroom, eight hours in our living room, two hours in our kitchen, and so forth. We divide houses by “space”. And you’re never living in all of the house. But you can divide the house by “time” as indigenous cultures do. What is amazing with the Asurini is that they share 100% of the house in the morning as a sleeping room, noon as kitchen and launch, afternoon as Atelier for hand works, learning, music, evening as a leaving room to chat with friends, and night as sleeepinroom. So you are always ling in all the house.

How do you use translate your knowledge of the forest, natural forces, and indigenous culture to Sao Paulo, to an urban landscape?

Sometimes we use the materials, or the feelings, smells, or geometries. When we think about nature, we think about human nature: how we relate to the environment. I don’t know if it’s clear, but it’s not about a metaphor of nature. For example, we create an environment that’s inspired by a waterfall of bubbles in a bottle. The focus and the feeling: our installation reflects the feeling of how these bubbles move through the space. So it’s not necessarily about incorporating natural materials, but rather bringing people into contact with the natural forces.

Words by The Editors. Photos (c) Marko Brajovic.

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