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Sustainable contemporary architecture in Amazonia

06/15/2020

Between July and August last year,
As the Maison du Brésil Brazilian culture centre celebrated its sixtieth anniversary last year at the Cité Internationale Universitaire foundation park in Paris, France, it presented an amazing exhibition in July and August, on Amazonia through Its Architecture. In addition to its lush plantlife, this display also showed how more than eighteen million people live in urban areas near the Brazilian rainforest. There were plenty of projects designed by these two architects, who are among the leading experts in this field. Confirmed speakers at UIA2021RIO and living in Manaus, Laurent Troost and Roberto Moita design noteworthy works that respect and preserve the environment. They are also experienced in municipal administration, more specifically heading up the Municipal Urban Planning Institute (Implurb).

Brussels-born Laurent worked for firms in several European countries, until settling in the Amazonas State capital in 2008. As the Urban Planning Director of Implurb since 2013, he has long been urging urban densification, explaining that one of the main problems affecting cities in Brazil is the fact their sprawling structures, with extremely low population densities and correspondingly low tax revenues: “This is the outcome of urban development focused on the automobile. There is no way that this model is economically sustainable, as the tax revenues per square kilometre are low, well urban maintenance and production costs are very high,” he explained in a seminar on the Manaus Metropolitan Region.

In addition to urban planning, his works include striking some striking items of contemporary architecture in Amazonas State. Last year, he won the Rural Home category of the Deezen Awards with his Casa Campinarana, located in an outlying district of Manaus. Its name comes from the surrounding biome, which was preserved, with small trees and marshy soil. Barely touching the ground, its structure follows the passive design concept, using natural ways of keeping temperatures at comfortable levels.

Casa Campinarana, by Laurent Troost. Photos: Leonardo Finotti and Maira Acayaba

Two other projects designed recently by this architect in Manaus are the Tourism Information Centre and the Pier Parintins. The former is in the largest public park in the city: the Parque Ponta Negra, running along the banks of the Rio Negro river. Designed to keep an open view of the horizon, plentiful glasswork helps minimise visible obstacles. In turn, the Pier Parintins is a multiple use project on the banks of the Rio Amazonas river. Last March, it was included in the Urban Planning and Architecture Salon at the Hidden Architects exhibition in Seoul, South Korea. This year, Laurent Troost sits on the jury of the Dezeen Awards.

Tourism Information Centre, in Manaus (AM)
Photo: Maira Acayaba
The Pier Parintins project

Dialogue respecting Nature

Born in Fortaleza, the Ceará State capital, Roberto Moita moved to Manaus right after he graduated in Architecture, where he has lived and worked for more than thirty years. His interest in the Amazonas State capital was immediate: “I was already deeply involved with the issue of heritage assets and the historical formation of cities, and Manaus is very rich in this field. A city built up from an indigenous village, which later became a metropolis during the XIX century rubber boom, followed by a second development surge during the 1960s, this type driven by industry.”

Heading up Implurb between 2013 and 2017, Moita also urges a densification policy for this State capital, focused particularly on revitalising the historic heart of the city. This architect feels that Amazonia is still viewed as a demographic blank, and this urban denial derives from the lack of key public policies, such as sanitation.

In the early 1990s, Roberto designed the Parque do Mindu conservation unit in Manaus. By creating shaded areas, making good use of breezes and blending Amazon hardwoods with steel, aluminium and concrete, this project features treetop trails that guide visitors through this park.

Parque do Mindu, in Manaus (AM). Photo: Tereza Cidade

This was one of his works presented at the Maison du Brésil in Paris. Another was the main house on the Sítio Passarim estate house, also in Manaus. This yet another example of harmonisation between natural and non-natural elements: “I try to create a fruitful alternating dialogue between what comes from Nature, and what does not. My intention is not to mimic artefacts, but rather to affirm their presence in ways that are integrated with Nature. I don’t believe that integration is achieved only through fusion.”

Located on a plot of land covering 7,500 square metres near a tranquil inlet, this house is surrounded by trees, with its steel structure raised on tree trunks. “The steel is highlighted with red paint, while the trunks seem to merge with the lines of the trees,” says this architect, who feels that this work presents an “Amazon urbanity”. This project was a finalist in the IV Ibero-American Architecture Biennial, held in Peru in 2004.

Sítio Passarim, by Roberto Moita


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