‘Sao Paulo’ illustrates student design

brazilbook
Photo by Natasha Thondavadi.

A new book published in December highlights the dialogue between architects and developers in the context of Brazil’s booming economy.

“Urban Intersections: Sao Paulo” is the sixth book in a series that showcases designs that School of Architecture students create for a spring-semester studio co-taught every year by a practicing architect and a visiting player in the real estate industry. The book features designs from 2010’s course, for which students designed residences hypothetically set in Sao Paulo, Brazil’s largest city.

The book focusing on Sao Paulo is the most comprehensive in the series to date, adding academic commentary about development in Sao Paulo to the survey of student designs, said Nina Rappaport, publications director at the School of Architecture. A full Portuguese translation is included in the back, she added, expanding the intended audience to Brazilian architects, developers and students, and making the book the first publication by the school to be translated into a foreign language.

Instruction for the course was a collaboration between School of Architecture professor Deborah Berke and Katherine Farley, the senior managing director for Brazil and China at the real estate giant Tishman Speyer.

Berke said the class focused less on the challenges of working in a developing country than on the opportunity to simulate building in a country with a real estate economy that remained successful while many of the world’s markets floundered.

“In 2010, first-world markets were destroyed by the financial collapse, whereas Brazil’s real estate market remained quite stable,” Berke said.

Students in the class created designs based on an actual development site in Sao Paulo managed by Tishman Speyer, Berke said.

It was in part an exercise in planning on a macro-level, Berke added, as the project called for 2,500 housing units for about 10,000 residents. Because of its scope, she said, the design process was about creating a community.

For many students, the studio also provided their first opportunity to analyze architecture from the perspective of a developer and to learn how to alter their designs after taking profit into account.

“Among the challenges was maintaining the highest standards for design while still achieving profitability,” Berke said. While architecture students often design in a vacuum, adding a developer’s perspective encouraged them to consider the marketability of their structures.

Berke added that without the perspective of developers, the students’ designs may have been markedly different. She said that Farley could speak to the restrictions of development — the class brought in other Tishman Speyer employees to discuss the varying factors that contribute to success in the real estate industry.

Farley is the first woman to co-teach this studio, for which she holds the Edward P. Bass Distinguished Visiting Architecture Fellowship.

While the business perspective was new to students, Rappaport said book appeals to consumers for its inside look at architecture as an academic pursuit. The book series provides a window into the ways in which architecture students generate and execute their ideas, she said.

The seventh book in the “Urban Intersections” series, which is currently in development, features designs from a class co-taught by Hong Kong developer Vincent Lo and architectural firm Kohn Pedersen Fox.

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