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The Master of Concrete by Uta Abendroth | 8th December, 2014 | Personalities

Marcio Kogan likes cubic, angular shapes. However, the Brazilian architect is adept at designing buildings that are so bright and airy, that they exude a surprising lightness, despite being anchored to the ground, their sweeping dimensions, and the use of lots and lots of concrete. Some of them seem to virtually hover amid the scenery…

If he worked in fashion, Marcio Kogan’s creations would be considered haute couture. However, in architecture, Kogan’s chosen field, there is no corresponding term. Nevertheless, the Brazilian’s designs are of the highest level of sophistication, just as custom-made, and no less elaborate. “With my kind of architecture I constantly try to create surprising spaces which elicit an emotional response,” says the São Paulo native.

It is quite possible that this approach is the result of his first career. Despite having graduated from Mackenzie University’s School of Architecture and City Planning in São Paulo in 1976, until the age of 30, Kogan preferred working as a filmmaker. It is a profession that is also primarily concerned with setting the scene, putting things in the best light and championing visual aesthetics. In 1980, after returning to architecture, Marcio Kogan won a design competition with his very first design, the private residence “V4,” and founded his studio mk27, which today employs 28 people.

“Here in Brazil architecture 
embraces nature or at least includes it in the design.” Marcio Kogan

In Brazil architecture is a comparatively young discipline, but it still attracts a good deal of attention, even on the international stage. This may be due in part to past luminaries like Oscar Niemeyer, Lúcio Costa and Lina Bo Bardi. The invention of a new type of architecture dates back to São Paulo in 1922, when the pseudo-styles of the colonial era were kicked out by a modernist manifesto. Two decades later, in 1943, New York’s MoMA hosted an exhibition curated by Philip Goodwin entitled “Brazil Builds,” which celebrated Brazil’s construction boom. After the end of World War II, immigrants, who dreamt of finding a new home and of helping to design it, fuelled a phase of creative awakening. Great importance was attributed to architecture for its ability to create a meeting place, where people, no matter what social class they were from, would come together. Lina Bo Bardi’s Museum of Art in São Paulo (MASP), which was constructed between 1947 and 1968, is a perfect example of this. The building consists of a huge glass and concrete cube, seemingly suspended from two red concrete arches. It appears to be floating eight meters above the ground, thereby creating a large open space underneath the museum.

“I have applied much I learned in filmmaking in my architecture: it is all about proportions and light.” Marcio Kogan

To this day, Brazilian architecture is epitomized in the country’s capital, which was designed entirely on the drawing board by city planner Lúcio Costa and architect Oscar Niemeyer. With its curved shapes and clear lines cast in concrete, it was celebrated as the prototype and pinnacle of architectural modernism, although Niemeyer himself later spoke of an “unsuccessful experiment.” Nevertheless, the elevated buildings with their support columns, far-overhanging roofs, sophisticated screening and the use of concrete have all had a marked influence on the decades that followed. Until well into the 1970s, it was predominantly public buildings that were being constructed in Brazil, but thanks to the economic upswing most developments being built today are private.
At 62, Marcio Kogan can no longer be counted among his home country’s young architects. He combines the past and the present stylistically, and has so slipped into a space between the generations. His country’s heritage forms an unmistakable part of his designs, which often are private residences with impressive dimensions. In many cases, pillars – called pilotis – rise from a floor slab. Stretching around the columns, there are large-scale glass surfaces, which in the case of the “V4” building can be opened up completely, and onto the garden, on both sides, thereby providing perfect cross-ventilation. The glass structure delineates the living area of the permanently well-lit ground floor. At the “Toblerone House,” a concrete ceiling with the same footprint as the base of the ground floor is suspended above the latter. The glass frontages only enclose part of the space between the floors, which creates a covered terrace with a hanging fireplace. Two trees are allowed to continue growing skywards unhindered, through cutouts in the concrete. It is the perfect symbiosis of nature and architecture.

“My primary aim is to create 
surprising spaces and to elicit an emotional response.” Marcio Kogan

Whenever Marcio Kogan gets to design two-story buildings, the second floor usually dramatically differs from the floor below it. The incidence of light is more intense upstairs, so the design has to take into account that this is mainly where bedrooms, or other rather private spaces, are located. This calls for less openness, and a degree of seclusion must be made compatible with the building’s screens. In the case of the “Toblerone House” narrow, vertically mounted wooden slats form the all-around cladding for the upper floor. In the daylight, the slats gleam in a warm honey color and blend in with the building’s natural surroundings. It is only at nighttime when the lights are switched on inside, that you can make out the floor-length windows behind the intricate frontage.

The attractiveness of Kogan’s designs is probably rooted in equal parts in the seeming lightness of his buildings, which appear to be suspended in mid-air, and in his adept and playful use of materials, which all achieve their desired effect. He uses a lot of glass, which gives the building a spacious and transparent appearance. Wood in warm colors introduces a natural aspect. The grey concrete – sometimes coarse and textured, sometimes fine and smoothly polished – is always more than just a necessary building material or load-bearing element, whether it be used as a floor slab, an intermediary ceiling or as the roof. It always seems to have a formative influence or to serve a particular purpose. Akin to a ribbon encircling the building, it highlights the horizontal alignment of Kogan’s cuboid houses. The distances between the two concrete slabs create intermediary spaces, for example for covered terraces. And where it protrudes, the concrete also provides shade – an important feature, given the climatic conditions.
Marcio Kogan sees himself in the tradition of the Brazilian modernists. With the “DR” bathtub he designed for Agape, he recently also demonstrated his approach of formal simplicity coupled with an eye for detail. The tub is large enough for two and boasts surprising, organic curves. Its outside features a finish of okumé plywood, while its inside is made from mineral materials. Kogan says: “I wanted to create an object that is as friendly as it is charismatic; one which extends a welcome to users.” Just like his sweeping glass and concrete buildings in Brazil. ua

IssueGG Magazine 01/15
PhotographyPress Images Studio mk27