January 28, 2022

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a tribute to brazilan architect ruy ohtake by photographer paul clemence


brazilan architect ruy ohtake (1938-2021)

 

ruy ohtake, the master of brazilian modernism, has passed away at the age of 83 in sao paulo, following a long battle with cancer. the brazilian architect, and son of japanese-brazilian artist tomie ohtake, will be remembered for his bold approach to architecture, his colors, and his extreme sculptural forms and shapes, leaving behind a sense of surprise. one of brazil’s most fertile architects, he has rendered in his very own language more than 420 built projects, most of them found scattered throughout brazil.

 

‘my expressions come from my mind through my hands, in this matter I just draw. although, drawing technology is useful,’ told designboom in an interview (see more here). ‘relying on intuition, audacity, and not being afraid to be polemic.’


heliópolis condominiums, heliópolis, são paulo

all images by paul clemence

 

 

paul clemence’s homage in honor of ruy ohtake’s memory

 

one of the most significant projects of his career is the heart of heliópolis, são paulo’s largest favela that accommodates more than 120,000 residents. another recognizable project is the half-moon-shaped hotel unique with the striking red pool on the rooftop. each project reveals ohtake’s sensitivity, creativity, and passion for the profession. 

 

‘he has designed cultural institutions, residential and office towers, hotels, banks, transportation hubs, an aquarium, sports arenas, houses, and even an elevated mass-transit expressway (with guard rails painted canary yellow). in são paulo, a megalopolis of intense architectural cacophony, he has without a doubt left his mark,’ said american-brazilian photographer paul clemence. —paul first met ruy ohtake one decade ago, in a gathering at the rooftop of the hotel unique in são paulo. since then they collaborated a couple of times. his admiration for ohtake’s works and his kind nature remain to this day.

 

in honor of ruy ohtake’s memory, we share paul clemence‘s homage to this great architect, designer artist and humanitarian, as well as a selection of his works captured by paul. read the full tribute below.

 

a tribute to late brazilian modernist master ruy ohtake by photographer paul clemence
edificio berrini 500, são paulo, brazil

 

 

Lasting microseconds: the work of ruy ohtake

 

‘color is life!, architect ruy ohtake used to say, with genuine gusto.

sadly, that statement now a bit faded with othake’s passing on november 27th after a long battle with cancer.’

 

‘I met ohtake for the first time in são paulo, in 2011, when I attended curator beto cocenza’s design conference boomspdesign. cocenza had organized a meeting for us at the rooftop of the ohtake designed hotel unique, one of his most high-profile projects in that city. I brought him a copy of my book on mies van der rohe’s farnsworth house and handed it to him, imagining the customary polite words in return, then a brief look at some pages and onwards the repartee would go. but instead, he slowly went through every single page of the book, attentively perusing each photo and commenting on every detail of both the house and the photographs. I felt an immediate creative connection, – he understood my work on a deeper level, we spoke the same language! it was then his time for show and tell, as he proceeded to take me on a private tour of the hotel. he was already on his 70’s, the hotel had been open for a few years, but the passionate, enthusiastic way he described the project, highlighting and explaining some of the details he was most proud of, was more alike a recent graduate showing off his just completed debut project! it was a most unforgettable evening, one for which I will always be grateful to cocenza for.’

 

‘we kept in touch, collaborated, I profiled his work in some publications, exhibited some of my photos of his work, wrote a chapter for his last monograph, and then in 2016 that striking red pool above the hotel unique ( a few meters away from where we first met) became the theme of my venice architecture biennale installation. a whole room dedicated to the poetic inspiration of that bold design statement, that vermilion pool! that installation was accompanied by a parallel exhibit at the laufen headquarters, part of a talk series where ohtake was the keynote speaker. the last time I saw him was in 2018, in são paulo. we dined as he talked of new projects, a possible conceptual book joint project, and recounted going on exploratory trips to the amazon with roberto burle marx. it was yet another unforgettable evening!’

 

‘beyond his talent and his oeuvre, I will also remember and forever be inspired by how ohtake carried himself. when he spoke, there were no sound bites, no statements like verbiage, no public relations talk. it was just an architect speaking genuinely, with the self-assurance that comes from hard work and a job well done. that’s probably why people were always so at ease to speak and approach him, be it at the most rarefied cultural settings or walking the streets of the heliopolis favela (with whom he developed a productive collaboration, now almost 2 decades old, that has generated several built projects).’

 

‘at his lectures, he often talked about that microsecond that it takes for our minds to absorb either a straight line or a curved one: with the straight line, he says, there’s no surprise – we can easily predict where it goes. but with the curve, he continued, our perception (and hearts) is further engaged – will it turn this way, that way… where will it ultimately take us to? I think our works bonded on that concept of this decisive yet so brief microsecond perception, for, whether a curve or straight line, my photography is about capturing those precious moments we connect with space, with the essence of the design.’

 

‘ruy ohtake’s work is a multitude of those microseconds, forever taking us on a stimulating architectural journey. with his rich formal vocabulary, he designed bold buildings that defy established conventions of what is architecture, valuing the engaging, experiential aspect of beauty, and the connection with the user.’

 

‘i am interested in creating shapes that can surprise people, that are daring, he said,

daring he was and thus, daring his legacy will be.’

 

– paul clemence

 

a tribute to late brazilian modernist master ruy ohtake by photographer paul clemence
residence and studio tomie ohtake

a tribute to late brazilian modernist master ruy ohtake by photographer paul clemence
private residence, brasília, brazil



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