FGMF Architects use unusual resources in an innovative manner to create a new office space for design consultancy Casa Rex.
Casa Rex, an international design consultancy, and one of the most awarded designs firms in Brazil was looking for a new address. Their philosophy is to do all sorts of designs, from the more authorial to the most popular ones and they are known for their cutting-edge creative endeavors. But, the company’s rapid expansion had not allowed it to replicate this identity in their erstwhile office. Thus, Sao Paulo based firm FGMF Architects was roped in to create a space that would reflect the company’s personality.
The building chosen to house Casa Rex’s new office was a former residence in Pacaembu. It had been built in the 1940s but the original architecture was hidden under the many haphazard reforms it had undergone over the years. FGMF Architects believe in starting every project from scratch and developing a new concept in the space and it was up to the design team to unearth the potential of the building.
Casa Rex had visualised their office to have three parts: the meeting area, the studio area and the external front area. The meeting area was to contain the reception and an exhibition space for the office’s projects; the studio area would be an open office plan where everybody would work together; and the external front area was to have restricted access. Fernando Forte, one of the three principal architects at FGMF Architects says, “The first big obstacle was the budget and we overcame it using simple materials and solutions to fulfill the desired complex requests.”
The façade of the building sets the tone for the innovative approach taken by the design team. Stone gabions, generally used to construct retaining walls, take on an artistic role here.
The teams at FGMF and REX put their heads togetherto create a specific pagination with red sandstone and biggrey gravel to form a visually remarkable façade. One of the modules has been depressed and a plate with negative cutting proclaims – CASA REX.
The meeting area is the face of the office with the reception, two meeting rooms and exhibition spaces incorporated here. FGMF decided to give it the form of an archaeological site. All the original walls were stripped of the plaster and the ceiling was removed to give the space a two storey height.
A pristine path tiled in white leads the visitor to the meeting rooms, again done up entirely in white. The rest of the space has been filled with the same gravel that is used in the facade, it has been laid out to look like a dug-up archaeological site. This space has been designated to serve as a gallery for the office projects. “Using heavy building materials in an innovative way as well as demolishing tiles and slabs creates a unique space, very different from the existing offices. It is almost as if it is a mix of a gallery and a corporate space; something different for an different company,” says Fernando.
The studio area is where the creative process takes place, where ideas are birthed, polished and readied to be presented to the world. It is thus the largest section of the office occupying more than half the space.
The most interesting feature is the seventy square metre ‘bookcase’ which makes up one wall of this area. This two floor high ‘library’ made of pre-cast concrete blocks is another example of innovative use of material. Fernando says, “Our favourite part of the project is the use of materials of infrastructure in an office of architectural solutions, like the stone cages that compose the façade and the pre-cast elements in concrete, normally used to channel streams used to make a huge bookshelf-stairway.”
The design philosophy of FGMF is to create contemporary architecture without any restraints and in every project they endeavour to explore the connection between architecture and man. Fernando says, “Casa Rex is not the best example to reflect contemporary Brazil design especially because it is a renovation at low budget. But, the use of infrastructure materials in a way that is different from what they are planned for, is what highlights it in the Brazilian architecture context.”
Text By Himali Kothari
Photographs Rafaela Netto