Interview with GSD Alumna Sol Camacho

October 31, 2018

First of all, congratulations for your role as one of the curators for the Brazilian Pavillion at the Venice Biennale 2018. Could you tell us a little about your experience at the Biennale?

Thank you very much for your interest and for opening a space to talk about the Venice Biennale project, which is the most important event for the contemporary architectural scene. The discourse of each pavilion and the main exhibition are world-wide references for everyone to understand what architecture (practice and academia) is doing now. The Biennale is a platform not only to present each country's recent constructions or best practices, but specially to open a dialogue with other curators and visitors on the most pressing issues of each country's built environment. In that sense, the exhibition I organized (together with 3 colleagues, Marcelo Maia Rosa, Gabriel Kozlowski and Laura González) had the clear target to address key issues of Brazilians cities and the territory at large, widening the conversation of the architectural building. WALLS OF AIR - how we named the exhibition was our answer to FREESPACE =, the main theme proposed by the general curators of the Biennale. WALLS OF AIR in many ways was an unprecedented exhibition project showing new content specifically produced for Venice. We showed 10 enormous cartographies of 3x3 meters depicting research done around 10 big themes related to urbanization in Brazil. We also showcased 17 amazing projects to explain the argument of WALLS OF AIR - in each one of them there’s a kind of answer from an architect to the different walls (real or conceptual) that as professionals we encounter while building in Brazil. The 17 projects were the result of a selection from the first ever open call to architects in the country. This was a very rich and exciting process. The whole process from the first meeting, to the brainstorming, development and production of the Pavilion was a thrilling and unforgettable learning experience! Thinking back to your time at Harvard, how did your experience as a Masters student at the Graduate School of Design influence your career as an architect and urban designer? For me, graduate school at Harvard was a real “before and after” period in my life as a professional architect and also personally. Without the experience there I would definitively not be here. The impact is so big it transforms for the better your way of thinking, processing, strategizing, connecting, creating, and developing projects, relationships, and interests. The level of professionalism we needed to execute the Pavilion for Venice is the perfect example of a direct result of my education at Harvard. Also, equally important were the skills I acquired to execute the drawings and generate the content.

You founded the award-winning architecture firm RADDAR, based in São Paulo. Tell us a bit about the firm.

Today my office is in São Paulo, near Avenida Paulista. It is a small practice in the sense of “employees” and built work, but it is quite big in what we reach and aim for. From research projects, to curatorial endeavors, from object design to urban planning, and conservation projects as well as teaching, writing and publishing. As young architects in Latin American contexts we face huge challenges building a portfolio of work in only one area. So the strategy has been multi-scalar and multi-disciplinary in some way, but whether small or large, the projects always involve the city, the public sphere, promotion and enhancement of the cultural scene. Besides São Paulo, you also do a lot of work in Mexico City. What are a few of the common challenges that these two megacities share in terms of urban design? Yes, I am from Mexico City and I do practice in both cities. I always think that there are very few practitioners on both of these extremely similar cities. Both Mexicans and Brazilians often look for references in countries like the US or in Europe which have a completely different social, political and economic realities. I have been working on making connections between CDMX and SP so that we can learn different approaches to similar problems in these large Latin American megacities. The main challenges they both face are their urban sprawl and the issues of water management, trash management and mobility. You're one of the co-conveners of the "SAO PAULO: A RADICAL EVOLUTION" Symposium that will take place on November 27th at Insper.

How did the project come about?

Yes, Felipe Correa, now a colleague was once my teacher at Harvard. In early 2017, he organized a Design Studio at the GSD in Sao Paulo, and since the beginning we talked about how this studio could be more than a semester of a student’s work and become a larger study (like he had previously done for Mexico City). Students came, and that was the kickstart of the project that later became a book edited by him, I write an essay in the book and participated in the research on the Urban Plan and Visions Chapter. The idea of the symposium is to have it as a book launch event - it is the perfect occasion to have a discussion with the collaborators of the research, the book and a wider local public on the ideas, issues and projects addressed for the future of São Paulo. I invite everyone, from all professions, to participate. The conversation needs to be opened beyond the urban designers. People attending should expect an extremely rich conversation with innovative practitioners on housing, urban growth, and its possibilities seen from diverse perspectives.