British School of Creative Arts by Form Bureau Defies Classroom Conventions

PROJECT NAME British School of Creative Arts
LOCATION São Paulo
FIRM Form Bureau

It’s no small feat to craft interior environments that stand up to the modernist-brutalist architecture of Interior Design Hall of Fame member Isay Weinfeld, but that’s what Form Bureau achieved at the British School of Creative Arts in São Paulo, Brazil. Founders Vera Odyn and Olga Treivas augmented Weinfeld’s sensual rectilinearity with irreverent interventions, including giant black polka dots painted on the streetfront terrace ceiling to entice passersby. “We try to deploy playful solutions in every project,” Odyn says. “The idea here was to make the school look like it’s not a school.” Geometric objects, functional but seeming not to be, are scattered at random; colors, Odyn’s particular passion, acquired from a childhood spent gallery-going with her parents, are bold and energizing; and nothing is overly “done,” leaving room for the students’ own creativity.

Isay Weinfeld’s undulating wood-plank walls lead to the terrace, with painted concrete ceiling graphics by Form Bureau. Photography by Sara De Santis.

The two met as students themselves, at Moscow Architectural Institute. In the six years since opening their multidisciplinary practice, now 12 staffers strong, the architects have completed over 80 projects, from Semifreddo, a Michelin-starred chef’s restaurant with refined walnut built-ins, to an M.C. Escher exhibit with an optical-illusion corridor at the Moscow Museum of Modern Art. Explaining her pull toward design, Treivas notes that post-Soviet Russia has an incredibly complex typology of spaces: “Growing up, you fantasize about what they could become.” Now via Form Bureau, she and Odyn get to find out.

A classroom's painted steel mezzanine is used for model-making. Photography by Sara De Santis.
The gold-framed circular glass bulletin board in reception can be annotated with whiteboard markers. Photography by Sara De Santis.
Terrace seating is synthetic rattan. Photography by Sara De Santis.

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