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Creating Timeless, Contemporary Architecture

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An image from De Moura Castro’s Lygia Pape Pavilion presentation. Image courtesy of Maria Paz De Moura Castro.

School of Architecture (ARH) instructor Maria Paz De Moura Castro has had her work accepted into the 2018 Venice Biennale, the world’s most prestigious architectural exhibition (the parent organization has roots in the 19th century). Her 2012 build, the Lygia Pape Pavilion, will be featured as part of a young Latin American architect’s competition in the Biennale.

The Lygia Pape Pavilion is located at Inhotim, a contemporary art museum located in the mountains of Minas Gerais in Brazil. The Pavilion is such a unique building because it was designed specifically to shelter contemporary artist Lygia Pape’s work, Tteia 1C. This specific piece of Pape’s is a series of golden threads bound to the floor and ceiling to create tridimensional figures that visually intersect in a dark room. The Pavilion is the permanent home for this piece.

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ARH instructor Maria Paz De Moura Castro. Photo courtesy of Maria Paz De Moura Castro.

“It’s one of the most interesting projects I’ve ever worked on, because it’s an opportunity related to an art experience. We [architects] are usually concerned with creating an enjoyable experience. In this case, it was creating something that’s not necessarily nice, but is definitely helping the art experience,” De Moura Castro said. “You’re walking in this corridor that has angled walls and is very dark but it is preparing you for the artwork. We wouldn’t normally do it, because it is not a pleasant experience.” 

The 2018 Venice Biennale opening ceremony began on May 25 and will be exhibiting until Nov. 25. De Moura Castro’s work was exhibited previously in the 2014 Biennale, as well.

De Moura Castro received her Bachelor of Architecture from FUMEC University before pursuing her Master of Architecture at Cornell University. With her former partner Thomaz Regatos, she founded Brazil-based architectural firm Rizoma Arquitetura. The firm’s work has been featured widely including Wallpaper, L’Architecture D’Aujourd’Hui and Casabella.

“We believe in designing places with quality with materials that are local. The architecture can speak for itself and the spaces we create with its projects can speak for itself. We believe that simple buildings can actually create amazing spaces,” De Moura Castro said. “I’m trying to design architecture from inside out. You become an architect because you like beautiful things... I think there’s something strong about thinking that a building comes from the inside first.”

ARH Graduate Director Mark Mueckenheim has worked very closely with De Moura Castro over the years. “She is an amazing resource for the students. There is a very timeless quality to her architecture. It is minimal but spatially extremely compelling,” Mueckenheim said. “While the architecture is very timeless, her approach in design is strikingly contemporary. There’s a very high level of conceptual thinking that is evident in her work, especially in her building that will be exhibited in the Biennale.”

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The Pavilion was designed specifically to shelter contemporary artist Lygia Pape’s work, Tteia 1C. Image courtesy of Maria Paz De Moura Castro.

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An image from De Moura Castro’s Lygia Pape Pavilion presentation. Image courtesy of Maria Paz De Moura Castro.

Although Rizoma Arquitetura is based in Brazil, De Moura Castro still teaches both onsite and online classes at the Academy. She is passionate about her design and tries to impart her students with a little bit of that fire. And more often than not she finds herself learning alongside them.

“You must have a lot of passion for what you do and a little bit of luck finding a good client that will give you a project where you can show what you can do. It’s a bit of luck, a lot of hard work and a lot of passion,” De Moura Castro said. “We learn a lot when we teach. There’s a lot of ideas that come up and things that you learn with students. There’s an energy in the school, an energy from being a student, being young and wanting to experience that brings a lot to the process as well.”