interview with architect arthur casas




influenced by a spirit both modernist and contemporary, brazilian architect arthur casas has completed a number of exemplary projects in his home country and beyond. as evidenced by his expanding portfolio, casas’ work is fueled by a holistic approach that enables him to comfortably work at scales ranging from an everyday dining chair to an entire neighborhood masterplan. since founding studio arthur casas in 1999, his team of architects, designers and urbanists has completed projects in new york, paris, milan, tokyo and buenos aires.


in a recent interview, designboom spoke with arthur casas, who discussed his first forays into the field of architecture, and expanded on his studio’s design approach, and what he has in store for the future.

interview arthur casas designboom
casa AL, rio de janeiro, brazil / see more of the project on designboom here
image © fernando guerra




designboom: what originally made you want to study architecture and become an architect?


arthur casas: my family name is casas, which in portuguese means ‘houses’. I guess I never thought seriously about another profession. I started drawing houses when I was 8 years old and never stopped, maybe it’s what we call vocation.

interview arthur casas designboom
the baleia houses, baleia, brazil / see more of the project on designboom here
image © iñigo bujedo aguirre




DB: what particular aspects of your background and upbringing have shaped your design principles and philosophies?


AC: I was born around the same time as the capital of brazil, brasilia. I experienced the best period of brazilian architecture, when anything was possible for an architect, including designing an whole city – reorganizing the way of life in urban areas. I brought from my childhood and my visits in brasilia this freedom, and the commitment to modernist principles in my professional life.

interview arthur casas designboom
saraiva bookstore, rio de janeiro, brazil / see more of the project on designboom here
image © fernando guerra




DB: who or what has been the biggest influence on your work to date?


AC: despite having had much influence in modern brazilian architecture, the architect who touched me most, especially in the domestic-scale, was frank lloyd wright. he was the one who knew how to work with all scales of projects concomitantly with the same weight and importance.

interview arthur casas designboom
highrise residetial project, lima, peru / see more of the project on designboom here




DB: overall, what would you say is your strongest asset and how have you developed that skill over time?


AC: I find it easy to understand each project’s needs, whether it is residential, commercial or if it is large or small size project – I rarely make a mistake or misunderstand my initial assessments. I’m able to develop layouts very quickly, and I never forget a badly-resolved issue if I’m not 100% convinced that what I’ve proposed or drew was the best solution. I only introduce for a client what I believe is the best.

interview arthur casas designboom
alma maría restaurant, sao paulo, brazil / see more of the project on designboom here
image © iñigo bujedo aguirre




DB: now that computer generated visualizations are so commonplace, is there still a place for physical model making or sketching designs by hand?


AC: all our projects are first designed by me by hand – both the sketches and the technical drawings are created on my desk. the computer is an indispensable tool for the development of the idea. as for the physical model, we have in the studio a specific room for it, I think it is important to create models for certain projects.

interview arthur casas designboom
brazil pavilion at expo milan 2015 / see more of the project on designboom here
image © designboom




DB: is it the job of an architect to satisfy the general public?


AC: I think our work should, overall, instigate people and seek to establish new forms of social contacts, to relate to the space. it may or may not satisfy at first, but surely will do in the future.

mesas arquipélago table set




DB: outside of architecture, what are you currently interested in and how is it feeding into your designs?


AC: I have a holistic view of my profession, so I like to explore all areas and scales; from urbanism to the minor object design. I’ve been researching the history of the utilitarian object and their materials, and above all its forms and functions.

escrivaninha asa, a sliding wooden desk




DB: which architects or designers working today do you most admire?


AC: probably álvaro siza and SANAA in architecture, and nendo in design.

casa HS, sao paulo, brazil / see more of the project on designboom here
image © fernando guerra




DB: can you tell us about any projects you are currently working on that you are especially excited about?


AC: we are beginning a big project in rio de janeiro in partnership with the campana brothers which promises to be very exciting in the whole journey. the work is scheduled to initiate after the olympics games next year.


also in the state of rio, in the city of niterói, we were hired by the local power company (ampla, from the italian group enel) to design a 100% self sufficient house to be built up to the 2016 olympics in a public park in the city. there’s a huge effort from our side in research regarding the technology in construction of course, but above all, as it will be a home in the future (they call the project casa N.O.V.A.), a big analyses regarding the relationship of the residents; the house should be for multiple families and should receive constant guests from airbnb.

casa itu, sao paulo, brazil / see more of the project on designboom here
image © fernando guerra




DB: what is the best advice you have received, and what advice would you give to young architects and designers?


AC: what I have to say to all young people who wish to join architecture universities is that it is not easy to be an architect. you must have talent, patience, a good sense of humor, and not be extremely attached to material issues, since very few architects can get very rich. but on the other hand, few professions can give as much pleasure as this.

interview arthur casas designboom
casa MP quinta da baronesa, sao paulo, brazil
image © leonardo finotti




DB: do you have a personal motto?


AC: I always try to be positive, even when the ‘picture is cloudy’.