The face of contemporary Brazilian architecture today, Marcio Kogan initially shunned the works of Oscar Niemeyer and Brazilian modernism, more interested in what was happening in the rest of the world.
Gradually, he came to appreciate the importance of this Brazilian movement that started in the 1930s and culminated in the creation of Brasilia, which produced the likes of Lucio Costa, Ernani Vasconcelos, Carlos Leao, Lina Bo Bardi and Vilanova Artigas.
He became fascinated by how a developing nation isolated from the rest of the world could be creating the globe’s best architecture. His aim now is to pay homage to this tradition by reinterpreting it in a contemporary manner using new technology.
Marcio notes, “It is not only interesting but also difficult to understand how a country like Brazil, at a time when the flow of information was practically non-existent, had so many architects producing a repertoire of this magnitude. My work humbly revisits this magical moment.”
Continuing the legacy of this iconic Brazilian modernist generation, Marcio founded the award-winning studio mk27 in the late 1970s in the pulsing, chaotic metropolis of Sao Paulo, which today comprises a team of 30 architects, many of whom have been working with him for over a decade.
Marcio is recognised for his stunning, high-end and low-slung houses with long, horizontal lines and Brazilian wood interiors, often constructed with concrete, stone, cantilevered roofs, and mashrabiya carved wood latticework that blur the boundaries between indoor and outdoor seamlessly.
It’s an aesthetic filled with right angles, formal simplicity, pure volumes and rich materiality. Initially focused on single-family houses, the studio has since expanded to hotels, offices, boutiques and apartment buildings.
A Story Unfolds
The rooms of Marcio’s edifices are imagined as a cinematic sequence. If he loves telling the story of architecture, it’s thanks to his experience as a filmmaker and passion for movies.
“I am quite cinematic in the early stages of a project. I always create the person who will live in the space in question,” he explains. “They have a life story: sometimes a man or a woman, or perhaps a mixture of both. They constantly walk around the space. They feel the proportions, lower the height of the ceiling, push walls, look through the window or simply remove a window.”
At the age of 15, Marcio’s life changed forever after watching The Silence by Ingmar Bergman, in which he saw himself projected on the screen. Thereafter, he debated whether to become a filmmaker or an architect, as his idols were Federico Fellini and Jacques Tati, never architects.
Fate decided for him as Fire and Passion (1988) – the only feature film he ever directed – was a flop and led to his bankruptcy. He abandoned the movies and returned to architecture with renewed determination.
He relates, “In the end, after the trauma, I was happy with what had happened, and I think I brought the baggage of movie-making to my career as an architect: from the elongated proportions of a widescreen to the importance of light, teamwork, the moment-to- moment emotions, which are always parts of the process of drafting a movie script.”
Since then, he has made peace with cinema and resumed movie-making. His completed buildings have become the subject of short films, depicting fictional scenes of daily life. Imagining the characters who will inhabit the rooms is an integral part of his craft thinking of architecture as a dynamic space filled with stories.
Building On A Memory
Born in 1952 in São Paulo, Marcio graduated from the School of Architecture and Urbanism at Mackenzie Presbyterian University in 1976.
He was greatly influenced by his father, Aron Kogan, an architectural engineer known in the ’50s and ’60s for the design and construction of large-scale modernist buildings in Sao Paulo, such as Sao Vito and Mirante do Vale.
At the age of eight, when his father passed away, “what remained in my memory was the day we went up a building under construction. While I grabbed his hand tightly, I looked over Sao Paulo as if I were flying. On that day, I became an architect.”
He recalls the difficulties of the early years when he launched his firm, “Brazil is always in crisis, making it very hard to manage any company. After a lot of blood, sweat and tears, some interesting clients began to emerge, and they changed my life. For the first 15 years, not being able to materialise something that I was intellectually capable of because the clients wouldn’t come on board was exasperating. Nowadays, my professional life is much easier.”
Out Of The Box
Although mk27 has completed projects in Peru, Chile, Uruguay, the United States, Canada, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Switzerland, Singapore and Vietnam, much of its work remains in Brazil.
The first of Kogan’s projects to win international acclaim after its World Architecture Award nomination in Berlin in 2002, Gama Issa House in Sao Paulo is emblematic of a phase in his career that favoured white surfaces and formal compositions based on the intersection of volumes and interiors with varied ceiling heights, such as the double- storey living room that spills out onto the garden through a colossal sliding glass door.
Submerged in dense vegetation by the Brazilian coast, the Jungle House weekend home for a large urban family blends into its environment unobtrusively while benefitting from ocean views. Marcio inverted the design, with the living room and pool on the upper floors, bedrooms in the middle and circulation space at the base.
As its name suggests, Ramp House in Sao Paulo showcases a massive ramp measuring 25.5m long that fluidly connects the ground-floor living room with the first-floor bedrooms, while Planar House in Porto Feliz is a radical exercise in horizontality – a Kogan signature.
MiCasa Vol. C, a flexible pavilion for a furniture store, is built with a timber structure enveloped by translucent polycarbonate sheets in the upper half and white metal panels below, bringing light and nature inside.
Each mk27 project, represented by hundreds or thousands of drawings, made by hand or digitally, is an act of perfectionism. Marcio suffers from Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and works tirelessly on every tiny detail so that the final result is as close to the initial intention as possible.
On certain buildings, he adopts a communal visual brainstorming approach, whereby he divides his team into groups of three or four to gather a broad spectrum of solutions.
“I like this kind of work because it’s not common to see in an office,” he states. “It’s not like I’m the boss and they are the architects; it’s a real team, a sort of think tank.” Next up is the XP Biome, the new Sao Paulo headquarters of one of Brazil’s largest financial groups.
As Marcio believes that the Covid-19 pandemic will lead to new ways of thinking about architecture, employees will be able to work from home, and the office will host training programmes, face-to-face meetings when necessary, leisure and sports areas and technical research labs, and help to desaturate the city that is becoming uninhabitable.
Next up: Patina Maldives
The inaugural flagship property from lifestyle brand Patina Hotels & Resorts, the latest hospitality concept by Pontiac Land’s Capella Hotel Group, Patina Maldives in the Fari Islands archipelago in North Malé Atoll is at once a place for sanctuary and stimulation.
The resort consists of The Beach Collection (a private enclave containing seven villas), 90 contemporary one-, two- and three- bedroom Beach and Water Pool Villas, 20 Fari Studios, restaurants and wellness and sports facilities.
The contours of the low-lying villas facing the beach and set in lush greenery perfectly frame the sky above and the ocean below and offer a deep connection with nature via floor-to- ceiling sliding windows that open on three sides in the practice’s trademark style, where communication between the inside and the outside is essential.
Marcio says, “In such a unique location, architecture’s role is to enhance the experience of the astonishing surroundings. It may be by filtering the light, framing the views or creating various narratives for each barefoot stroll around the island.”
The guestrooms sport earthy colours, subtle textures, matte surfaces and rustic materials like wood, linen, rattan, paper cord, stone and natural fibres. Custom-made furniture is combined with curated pieces from leading brands, varying from Bassam Fellows, Lin Brasil, Gervasoni and Vitra indoors to Dedon, Carlos Motta and Paola Lenti outdoors.
Special design features include Nero Marquina marble standalone twin vanities and basins hewn from a single block of stone, along with bespoke Italian porcelain tiles and al fresco, free-standing double bathtubs.