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Brazilian Perspectives

Leonardo Poletti - Architect and Urbanist, Specialist in Civil Construction - Partner of the Brazilian Offices 3C Architecture and Urbanism and Entre - Architecture of Solution

Brazilian Architecture - Contemporary production and reality of the professional market | Part II

September 6th, 2019

Before continuing the article published last year, I owe sincere apologies to the readers of Urban Realm for the long time since the first post. The last months have been very busy here in Brazilian lands, reflecting directly on my professional performance, with new and varied work fronts emerging in my work routine as an architect and urban planner. Consequently, new challenges and obstacles were also emerging, which required focus and very concentrated efforts in this new scenario that came to me. But let's move on.

Part I of the article concludes by addressing the current characteristics of architectural production in Brazil. Some examples have been presented of how architectural production has responded to the challenges of our reality, with examples that stand out positively in a challenging scenario.

As mentioned above, besides being common knowledge, we are talking about a poor country with serious socioeconomic needs, aggravated by an invariably troubled political scenario throughout its history, but which has been especially confusing and tense over the last 5 years.

All this instability ends up curbing investments in construction, both by the public and private initiative. Thus, the immense need that Brazil presents for infrastructure works, major urban interventions related to mobility, offerings of qualified public spaces that could provide leisure options and reflect on the security of the population, are not only being supplied but have been increasing exponentially. Added to this there is a huge housing shortage, which the government often seeks to address with offers of low quality architectural and constructive housing, even though it is not necessarily cheap for the public coffers. Thus, it is evident the great demand for qualified and responsible projects with the public purse.

However, it is possible to verify that this lack for qualified projects is not related to the absence of architects graduated from Brazilian universities. On the contrary, ironically there are a huge number of professionals, especially recent graduates, who are unable to enter the job market. And the most striking fact is that today the number of students in our universities is greater than the total number of graduates. That is, the market saturation scenario tends to get worse.

Nevertheless, this does not mean that previously exposed issues will be resolved automatically or in a short time. Many of the newly entering architects come from colleges with little tradition and that don't offer the minimum conditions for quality teaching to their students, some of which has adopted the distance learning modality*.

It should be noted, however, that this is not the rule. There are a large number of universities, both public and private, offering high quality education and fully trained professionals. What happens is that by placing in the same market professionals with huge technical lags in their training, but in equality with regard to their attributions, the image before the Brazilian society of all architects ends up compromised. Added to this is the resistance that most of our architects have to adopt new tools, such as BIM softwares, and our culture of diminishing the relevance of design compared to the execution of the works themselves. The result is that the contribution that our architects and urban planners could - and should - offer to Brazilian society is little explored. It also helps explain why we live in a culture of not hiring architects, especially among the lower classes. The case of Casa Vila Matilde, from Terra and Tuma office (exposed in part I of the article), is an exception to this rule and, precisely because it is an exception, had a great and positive repercussion among professionals in the area.

Analyzing the issue from this perspective, it is possible to understand how there is still room for the contribution of foreign architects in the improvement of architecture in Brazil, especially by bringing the experience of developing executive projects with high level of detail, compatibility, specifications and rigor in technical solutions. It would certainly be a huge contribution in a scenario of tight budget constraints but which, nonetheless, routinely presents examples of overpriced works, especially in the public sphere.

However, there are some challenges for foreign architects to be able to operate in the Brazilian market. It can be said that the biggest one is the bureaucracy that involves the process of obtaining the license to practice the profession here. In fact, the bureaucracy - another typical feature of our culture - is a huge obstacle for the performance of Brazilian architects themselves here in our country. Another point to consider is the unattractive fees normally paid to the category, which are even less attractive with the current devaluation of our currency. On this point, however, it is important to note that the Council of Architecture and Urbanism, an entity that defends and regulates the performance of architects in Brazil and that was established only in 2011, has been acting strongly in valuing the profession, seeking to establish clear criteria to standardize and increase our professional fees. Finally, foreign professional performance in projects on Brazilian lands demand, as in any other country, knowledge of legal, technical and environmental constraints, and because of their immense territorial extension, such constraints vary significantly between Brazilian regions.

As a way to overcome these challenges, foreign architects interested in working here may consider establishing partnerships with Brazilian professionals. This practice has been observed for some time and gained strength during the preparation of the two major sporting events hosted in Brazil in recent years. There are numerous local offices open to this exchange of experience and work opportunities, especially those with the involvement of younger architects, who are increasingly interested in acting globally, in an environment of information and knowledge exchange. . There is a huge field open for such integration to take place, which will undoubtedly contribute to establishing and strengthening the culture of architectural design among Brazilian society.

*This theme may become the topic of another article in the coming, as it has generated great controversy among professionals, private educational institutions and class entities.

PS: In the next article I will share my experience developed over the last months, during which I followed the execution of works of 5 public buildings that will house activities aimed at young people living in the outskirts of a large metropolitan region and exposed to a reality of great social vulnerability.

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