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About Miguel Pinto Guimarães

In the Brazilian skyline, the projects of Miguel Pinto Guimarães appear integrated to the natural and urban landscape without the pretension to make its proportions compete with the environment. Nature comes first, and soon to follow its simple and clean architecture inserted in a free and assumedly brazilian context. Smooth solutions, finishes and shapes, are part of his production. The result of his work is realized with the minimum of enviromental impact and the maximum of harmony in a unique concept that harmonizes interior and exterior. Miguel, born in 1974, was drawing houses in his notebooks since childhood. Residential projects, hotels, schools, art galleries and restaurants with his signature are spread across the country's main cities, mountains, beach and countryside.

Interview with Miguel Pinto Guimarães

Miguel Pinto Guimarães ("MPG") interviewed on Thursday, 23 May.

Could you please tell us about your experience as a designer, artist, architect or creator?

MPG : Excluding periods as a trainee, I have always owned my architecture studios. At the age of 19 I opened, together with Thiago Bernardes, my first studio "Miguel Guimarães and Thiago Bernardes Associated Architects". We worked together for over 8 years. With the death of Thiago's father, the renowned architect Claudio Bernardes, we were invited by his partner, Paulo Jacobsen, to join the two offices. In 2001 "Bernardes Jacobsen Guimarães" was founded. Two years later, in 2003, at the age of 29, I decided to leave BJG and open my own studio, "Miguel Pinto Guimarães Arquitetos Associados". The "Bernardes" brand, so important to the history of Brazilian architecture, made up of three generations of excellent architects, had become so strong, that I felt compelled to follow my own path. Shortly thereafter, Bernardes and Jacobsen also separated. The most curious is that, after more than 15 years, the three studios stand out in the scenario of Brazilian architecture. Today, "Miguel Pinto Guimarães Arquitetos Associados", created 16 years ago, has about 25 people working between the two offices of Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. Most of our portfolio is made of residences, but we carry out various projects such as residential and commercial buildings, numerous restaurants and shops, some hotels, schools, museums, sports arenas, parks and urban projects. Usually we have 30 to 40 projects, of several scales being developed at the same time and about 600 projected until today.

How did you become a designer?

MPG : I started as a trainee very early, still in high school. I was pretty sure I was going to be an architect. During childhood I was used to draw cities, boats, houses. I remember drawing an Olympic masterplan from Seoul in 1988, for example. I was 13 by that time. It was my hobby, my greatest fun. I didn't surf, I didn't play ball. I drew. From Friday to Sunday, until dawn. It was natural for me to pursue these after school hours internships. I worked for a year with Cadas Abranches (A very known architect in Brazil), while I was 15 and after that I went as a trainee into the office of Claudio Bernardes, one of the most important architectural firms in Brazil, where I met again with an old childhood friend, Thiago Bernardes, his son, who was already working in his father's office. We were 16 then. From there, we entered both in different architecture universities. Already in the first year of college we started doing some interior projects together, first the bedrooms of our friends and a little beach house for two brothers in the land of their parents. That was in 1993. We continue with our projects, parallel to the internship. In 1994 we decided to go out and open our own studio.

What are your priorities, technique and style when designing?

MPG : I always start with paper and pencil. I am quite old-fashioned. When my sketch goes to my team of architects, we work on VectorWorks, AutoCAD e ArchiCAD (BIM), Sketchup and 3DMax. I design from the inside out. I privilege the function and not the form. When a project is well resolved in its proportions and spaces, its form will naturally be harmonious and beautiful. I seek incessantly simplicity. With the experience, I learned that the best project will always be the simplest. The main objective of any project is to respect and dialogue with the surrounding nature. The site itself, the solar orientation will always guide the project. Large open spaces, internal gardens, natural lighting and ventilation merging with the surroundings, lack of boundaries between interior and exterior are the main aspects of our architecture.

Which emotions do you feel when designing?

MPG : It's impressive. When I'm in the middle of the designing process, and the project is flowing well, I'm taken over by an energizing joy. I practically stand up, and with broad, theatrical gestures, I feel like the maestro of a symphonic orchestra, conducting some complex Bach symphony. Even if alone, in a small studio, lit only by a table lamp. It's cathartic! When the building is done, It's like having a child. That building becomes a member of your own family. A close relative. You feel like loving, caring, you want to visit frequently. I suffer when it gets sick or grow old.

What particular aspects of your background shaped you as a designer?

MPG : For me, being a designer is all about eye and memory. Watching and observing everything and everyone around. I have a very powerful visual memory. All the visual information, being architecture, design, theater, cinema, photography, visual arts and many others, feed my repertoire and my creativity. I am a photographer on my leisure times. It came after architecture, but it helps me organize the way I see the world and how people see my architecture. Photography enhaces my work as a designer

What is your growth path? What are your future plans? What is your dream design project?

MPG : My future plans are continue working daily with the same passion and devotion to this lovely craft. I intend to dedicate myself with the same energy from the beginning of my career to the our most exciting project: the next one! And, talking about my next projects… We are designing the greatest gastronomic market of Rio de Janeiro, the "Mercado do Rio" on the new docks district, maybe the main touristic area of the city, next to both "Museu do Amanhã" and "Museu de Arte do Rio". It is inspired by most of the european Markets, such as Mercado da Ribeira in Lisbon, Mercado de San Miguel in Madrid, Markthal in Rotterdam. It will host forty of the best brailian food labels. We are also very excited about the new resort that we just designed in Bahia, on the north coast of Brazil. It is a complex completely integrated in nature, covered by sand and native vegetation. It is our manifesto of non-architecture that we are implementing in some recent projects. It is our intention to make architecture disappear in the landscape. It is our option for discretion and not for spectacle. It is also a gesture of generosity with nature. And my dream poroject is my own house! It is being built! But, unfortunately, I do not have the time to dedicate myself to this project as much as I would like!

What are your advices to designers who are at the beginning of their career?

MPG : First of all: Be simple! The best project is certainly the simplest! One advice for all creators is to never abandon the child that exists within us. Joviality is essential for the longevity of our architecture. The architect should never grow old. Must pass right from childhood to eternity.

You are truly successful as a designer, what do you suggest to fellow designers, artists and architects?

MPG : Participate in competitions, architecture contests. It brings a lot of experience in different types of project, in argumentation and sales tools. It was something that I started to do very late and I regret it. As I began working very young, I quickly became quite known in the residential project market. We had a small size studio, with lots of clients and a lot of work. At the same time, my classmates were entering major competitions in architecture and urbanism, which made me quite jealous! I had professional success, made some money, but I lost the most romantic part of the profession! It was only after I got older, with an established studio, that I could afford to devote some of my time to research, contests and competitions. However, I never lost contact with the academy. I kept close relationship with my teachers, master's students, I always participated in lectures and examining boards. Keeping contact with the academy is another valuable tip.

What is your day to day look like?

MPG : I wake up early, around 7 am. From 7 to 9, I sit at my home office to draw, to project. At 9 am I go to the studio, and from then on the day is unpredictable! Problems to solve, meetings to attend, new clients to meet, visits to the construction sites, assistance to suppliers. It is rare for me to have free time to create in my office because of the daily schedule. About 7 pm or 8 pm, I go home to have dinner with wife and kids. After dinner I usually watch some TV series or some movies. It is relevant to remember that architects work 24 hours a day 7/7! Even in our leisure time we are thinking about work and our cell phone shall be available at all times. And any lunch, dinner or social event is time to prospect new clients!

How do you keep up with latest design trends? To what extent do design trends matter?

MPG : Tendency is not something that you can learn or study. Trends are in the air. You have to feel it. It becomes part of your vocabulary without you notice. This requires much observation. It is important to be in touch with the entire creative industry. Design, Cinema, Photography, Theater, Visual Arts, Fashion. The steps that the design takes in its evolution are felt in all these areas. In my work, I do not worry about meeting trends. I worry about being true to the architecture I believe. I have to be honest with my ideals. If these ideals match with trends, so much the better.

How do you know if a product or project is well designed? How do you define good design?

MPG : The good design is simple. Simplicity comes first. Austerity. Architecture and Design, in my opinion, should be stripped of accessories or ornaments. Anything that is not essential is dispensable. Good design is immune to tendencies and survives the passage of time.

How do you decide if your design is ready?

MPG : Architecture is NEVER ready. It is delivered on time, just that. Every time we stop to review or re-evaluate a project, we will want to modify it. My architecture is a reflection of my mind, it is a portrait of that moment. And that changes all the time. Architecture can always be improved.

What is your biggest design work?

MPG : One of my most important experience in large-scale projects was participating on the international competition for the Rio 2016 Olympic Park Masterplan. We won the second prize, among other 50 competitors, losing the first prize to the English AECON office. I was concerned to receive the Olympic Games and not participate, as an brazilian architect, in any way. As soon as the competition was announced, with only 2 months to deliver the projects, I decided to set up an international team with the capacity to develop it. I joined our office MPG, with the carioca CDC and invited the americans Gensler and SWA. We took almost 30 days just to assemble the team and collaborators and the other 30 days I was interned in California developing the project. I am very proud to reconize that most of the solutions came out from the brazilian architects involved and also pround to know that we have lost because of only one vote. We discovered later that the result was 4 to 3, being ours the three Olympic votes and the four remaining votes, received by our competitor, came from the representatives of the city of Rio. That means, I have no doubt or modesty to say, that our Olympic project was better than theirs, but AECON's legacy project was far better than ours. The most curious are the enormous similarities of both masterplans and pretty much the same layout of the venues between the two projects. Worth checking it out.

Who is your favourite designer?

MPG : It is impossible to name just one. There are several architects that I really admire around the world. Beginning with the visionaries Frei Otto and Sergio Bernardes, extending to the portuguese Eduardo Souto de Moura and Álvaro Siza, besides Ren Koolhas, Norman Foster, Herzog and de Meuron, Renzo Piano, Santiago Calatrava. I am fascinated by all contemporary Japanese, Toyo Ito, Shigeru Ban, Kengo Kuma. In Brazil, Claudio Bernardes has always been a reference, but I also admire the work of my contemporary colleagues Thiago Bernardes, Paulo Jacobsen, Arthur Casas, Isay Weinfeld, Marcio Kogan and FGMF. And of course the legendaries Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Walter Gropius and Richard Neutra

Would you tell us a bit about your lifestyle and culture?

MPG : I live in Brazil, between Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, the two cities where my offices are located. Designing in Brazil is as it should be anywhere in the world, means to know profoundly its history, its culture, its people and its architecture. We are a quite diverse country and we have a very rich architecture history. My work is influenced by the indigenous architecture, portuguese colonial architecture and mainly by the modernist movement. Brazilian modernism was internationally prominent, making our architecture known in all continents. Living in these tropics brings us the domain of the exuberant nature and complex climate that is essential to designing an adapted architecture. Living and observing the daily life, the city, people that come and go, inspires me. Everything and everyone interests me and are important to my creativity. New and different people, cultures, countries, arts, culinary. Outside my office, architecture doesn't matter. Life, human beings are much more inspiring. Music and the visual arts play a fundamental role in feeding my imagery repertoire. They are essential while expanding our pores to new formal, chromatic and spatial matters. Artists as Vik Muniz, Adriana Varejão, Beatriz Milhazes, Helio Oiticica, Lygia Clark, Richard Serra and Donald Judd have enormous influence on my work.

Would you tell us more about your work culture and business philosophy?

MPG : My role as the studio main partner is mainly prospecting new clients and developing architectural draft studies. All the creative kick-off is up to me. From then on our architects teams take over. I continue to attend clients along with these teams and I am always available to solve design and construction problems. All stages of an architectural project are performed by the studio. Concept studies, executive project, detailing, construction follow-up, compatibility of technical complementary projects, decoration, furniture design. We work as a team. My studio has about 25 associate architects. This young and devoted team is divided between the headquarters of Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. Important to mention my main collaborators. Adriana Moura, associated since 2003, but my colleague for almost 30 years, runs the interior design department; Renata Duhá, associate in 2006, today is the CEO of MPG; and Natália Lopes, associated for six years, is the coordinator of architecture department and my right-hand collaborator. My creative process is quite interesting. Experience brings me the possibility of designing head first. When visiting a site, for example, we already have a clear vision of what would be the best project. And this project keeps being developed in details in my mind under various situations... in bed, on the beach, on daily walks, anywhere. I keep thinking of it all the times. When I sit down to draw it effectively, it is already completed in my mind. Matureness also brings us the certainty that the magical touch inspiration is not primordial, and if it does not come, when we sit on the drawing board to project, something good will come out of it!

What are your philanthropic contributions to society as a designer, artist and architect?

MPG : My studio sponsors many cultural expressions, visual arts exhibitions, theatre plays, some musicians. All of our sponsorships are linked to the cultural area. We also donate part of our anual fees to an association of student scholarships “Associação Janelas Abertas” (Open Window Association), which enrolls poor students into the best schools in the country, through a full scholarship and cost support for their families. We also contribute to the funding of young politicians. Personally, I am chairman on the board of an NGO called “Uma Gota no Ocenao” (A Drop in the Ocean) that militates in environmental areas, human rights and the defense of indigenous rights.

What positive experiences you had when you attend the A’ Design Award?

MPG : It is a pleasure and an honor to participate in the A'ward Competition, having won with three projects. I feel that the award and the publicity will be very important for my international career. I have almost thirty years of professional experience, most of them running important architectural studios, and I feel we are ready to work in any country in different design typologies. It is also very important for the contractors of the awarded projects, since they receive an endorsement from an important international association.

Miguel Pinto Guimarães Profile

Grabowsky House

Grabowsky House design by Miguel Pinto Guimarães


Nascimento Chapel

Nascimento Chapel design by Miguel Pinto Guimarães


Eleva School

Eleva School design by Miguel Pinto Guimarães

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