September 12, 2013

Screen Legend: Marcio Kogan’s Modern São Paolo Masterpiece

If Oscar Niemeyer is Brazilian architecture’s king of curves, Marcio Kogan is its prince of minimalism. His Studio MK27 creates drama with strikingly spare, boxy buildings as opposed to Niemeyer structures influenced by the country’s shapely topography and female residents. But look closely—very closely—at the house that Kogan designed for a large art-collecting family in an upscale neighborhood near a São Paulo park, and you’ll see curves aplenty. They’re the intertwined forms of modular screens wrapping a rooftop pavilion.

This ethereal facade is the exquisite result of a collaboration with sculptor Erwin Hauer, an Interior Design Hall of Fame member whose sinuous geometric screens have seduced designers from Florence Knoll  to Philip Johnson and beyond. The pattern that Kogan chose to shield the two glass walls of the pavilion, which houses a gym, was the first one to be manufactured for an architectural application. “I was lucky to get it right from the outset. It’s almost magical how it’s held up aesthetically,” the 85-year-old muses.”Many members of the younger generation find it difficult to believe that I designed it so far ahead of the computer age.”

For the São Paulo house, Hauer dusted off original masters and, from them, made new production molds in rubber-lined aluminum. These flexible molds could better handle the composite of cement and crushed marble he’d developed for outdoor use. (His standard-issue interior screens are made from gypsum.) Adding the marble to the mix allowed the intricate concave and convex surfaces to be finessed to near perfection. Kogan’s team spent a full month filing rough patches before skilled stone setters mounted the modules in frames of polished stainless steel.

So much effort wasn’t expended arbitrarily. Kogan’s reference was to the decorative hollow blocks that Niemeyer, for one, embraced for their ability to temper tropical sunlight while letting in cooling breezes. The blocks’ name, CoBoGós, combines the surnames of the three engineers who patented concrete versions of the blocks in 1929: Amadeu Oliveira Coimbra, Ernest August Boeckmann, and Antônio de Góis. Kogan had recently designed his own marble CoBoGó-esque screen for the interior of an art gallery in Istanbul. After initially considering building an outdoor version for the São Paulo house himself, however, he set out to convince Hauer to take on the job. “We’ve always loved Erwin’s work. But it was a long process of seduction for his partner, Enrique Rosado, to come to Brazil and try some caipirinhas,” Kogan jokes.

The house’s L shape, at nearly 11,000 square feet, embraces a patio with an enormous tree shading a free-form swimming pool. Seen from the patio, each level of the house plays with different degrees of transparency and openness. On the ground story, glass stacking doors completely open up the living-diningroom, while identical doors in the library can be partially or entirely concealed behind a run of wooden accordion doors. Carvedintoa small-scale lattice work more reminiscent of traditional Arabic architecture than of CoBoGós, the accordion doors reappear upstairs, fronting bedroom suites. At the very top, Hauer’s screens camouflage the glass-walled pavilion for the gym, which doubles as a yoga studio, as well as the sauna and a bathroom.

“Erwin’s elements create crazy-beautiful light effects in the whole pavilion,” Kogan says. Think of them as spatialized lace, constructed from sunbeams.

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