Brazilian architect Arthur Casas is widely recognized for the creativity and foresight he brings to a wide cross-section of commercial and residential projects. With a host of accolades and top shelter magazine nods under his belt, Arthur approaches the future with a refined sensibility and generous spirit. Here, he explains his artistic evolution, dream clients, and lifelong inspirations.
ID: At what point in your career did you start realizing potential contributions you would make to the design industry?
AC: I started to work very early; I had my own office when I was 21. I’ve always tried not to establish any preference or distinction among the areas where I work: architecture, interior design, design. On the contrary, I’ve always tried to have one clear thought line, to be able to work on these three areas in the best possible manner. That said, I’ve never been very worried with the scale of a work but more with the possibilities of realizing it well. I’d say that the most significant works started to appear over the last 20 years.
ID: What’s changed about your approach to design and architecture since starting out?
AC: Today, I understand that not everything I like or admire should be part of my work. When we’re young, we’re always fascinated by anything new, always. With maturity, we start to filter the information and this makes our work better.
ID: Tell us about your philosophy or mindset for approaching new projects.
AC: I like to imagine how people will appropriate a space, and how their lives might be improved. For me, architecture should always be in the service of people, never above them.
ID: Which current projects are keeping you the busiest and happiest at the moment?
AC: We’re doing two gated communities that include houses, hotels, and sustainable spas. It’s a very exciting experience. We’re also developing three malls; one, in Panama City, is going to be the greenest project in Central America!
ID: Who would you consider to be “dream clients?”
AC: I don’t have clients that are more or less fun. I really like those clients that identify themselves with my job and bring new and valuable elements that enrich the project.
ID: What is the most satisfying moment of a project?
AC: The end of a work, when the project is built and the people that occupy it are happy.
ID: What qualities do you like to be present in your own residence?
AC: Comfort is essential. I have less aesthetic worries today than when I was 21, when I bought and refurbished my own house—a 1943 project by Vilanova Artigas, the main architect of the escola paulista, a more rationalist version of modernism that took place in São Paulo. It’s more pragmatic than the organic forms made in Rio. I’ve been rearranging this building constantly to adapt it to my family needs—sometimes even leaving purist or aesthetic questions to the side.
ID: Are there design elements that get on your nerves?
AC: Specially, I hate handrails—and any railings in general—though I have never been able to do a house without integrating these elements. Also, it’s always hard to conceal, with all the different building restrictions, especially in the US. But they’re indeed crucial, I must admit.
ID: What cities have been inspiring to you through the years?
AC: I have three strong experiences that were turning points for me: Brasilia, even though its quite far from my hometown, I used to visit it constantly as a child and I’d be fascinated by the possibility of an architect creating an ideal world; my hometown, São Paulo, where in the middle of this chaos one might discover incredible modernist buildings from the fifties, sixties, and seventies; and then there are my trips abroad: California’s Case Studies houses—I love Neutra and Schindler—the Paris of Pierre Chareau and Mallet Stevens, the BABA houses in the Czech Republic, and many others.
ID: Do you have high expectations of yourself as a prominent member of this very creative industry?
AC: I believe we can always make things better. We can’t simply repeat a formula that worked well in the past. The greatest challenge of a professional in his maturity is not to believe that he “made it.”