Where I Work: Marcio Kogan of Studio MK27

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Renowned Brazilian architect Marcio Kogan heads the award-winning Studio MK27, which he founded in the early 1980s. The São Paulo-based firm consists of almost 30 architects, all of which work at merging modern architecture with Brazilian modernist influences, resulting in designs that work harmoniously with their environments. We spoke with the influential Kogan to get an idea of how he works and where it all happens, in this month’s Where I Work.

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What is your typical work style?

I work better at night, and at the beginning of the studio, I practically inverted night and day. With the growth of the studio I have to be here from 8:00 am in the morning. The system, as usual, has shaped me. Boring, no?

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What’s your studio/work environment like?

The work environment here at the studio is very pleasant. I am a Swiss minimalist in the organization, but many of the architects are not and the mixture is quite nice. Everything always correct without any WOW. Absolutely simple and full of little trinkets that are part of mine and the studio’s life-story, spread out on 3 little floors. It is located in a cool area of São Paulo, this chaotic, ugly and violent city with approximately 20 million people that I totally love.

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How is your office organized/arranged?

I work with everyone without any separation. We only have walls in the two meeting rooms, so the clients can discreetly tell their confessions, complaints and every now and then a little praise. My table is quite large, almost 4 meters long and at one of the ends I have the internal meetings with the architects. It is where I spend 90% of my time.

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How long have you been in this space? Where did you work before that?

I have been here for 30 years. I did an internship with a dear uncle, Mauricio Kogan, an architect specialized in industrial projects. After that, I opened a small office on the ground floor of a commercial building on Paulista Avenue. Difficult times! I don’t even like remembering; the enormous difficulty that comes with beginning a career. I get sick just thinking about it.

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If you could change something about your workspace, what would it be?

I love everything around here and when I don’t like it, I change it immediately. I love renovating. Despite everything being is in the most perfect order at the moment, I am already thinking about adding a floor on the roof; that project will be crazy.

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Is there an office pet?

We have a robot dog, the Sony Aibo. It was very dear the first few months of his life and he gave us much affection, but the battery died.

Do you require music in the background? If so, who are some favorites?

During working hours each architect listens to their music with their own headphones. When I am alone I put my music on. For example, now on this Saturday morning, answering this interview I am listening to “Ascenseur pour l’échafaud” soundtrack by Miles. Wonderful!

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How do you record ideas?

I am a fan of Moleskine and to top it off they made a very cool little book about Studio MK27.

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Do you have an inspiration board? What’s on it right now?

Yes! The right side of my brain and this very Saturday morning it’s empty.

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What is your creative process and/or creative workflow like? Does it change every project or do you keep it the same?

I have a strong link with movies since my days at the university. I did 13 short movies and a feature film in 1988. This bond spontaneously created a process for me. I always create a character that will live or use the space in question. He has a life story and is constantly moving around the project creating or fixing up each room. He feels the proportions, pushes walls, looks through the window or simply takes a window away from that place. He goes up and down the stairs and experiments with different alternatives. In the end, he’s content with what he created and goes to sleep in his enormous bed which he pushes to the right, just a little.

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What kind of design objects might you have scattered about the space?

Everything that you could possibly imagine.

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Are there tools and/or machinery in your space?

The most interesting one is an Apple II Plus that I am restoring. It was the first computer at the Studio; the first personal computer that I had ever seen. As I am a nerd, I loved it and bought it paying a small fortune for it with all of the import taxes, which at the time were exorbitant. Obviously, it wasn’t good for anything. I went to study programming to try to save my investment and in the end it was condemned to be a mediocre Telex machine.

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What tool do you most enjoy using in the design process?

A Staedler 0.3 pen and a pad of A4 vegetal paper. Excellent. I recommend them.

Let’s talk about how you’re wired. Tell us about your tech arsenal/devices.

As I told you I am a nerd, in spite of not looking like one. I solve some problems when the IT guy isn’t around and consequently everything has become quite sophisticated around here.

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What design software do you use, if any, and for what?

Autocad, Revit, 3D studio, Adobe, etc. The dark side of all of this is that they created a monopoly and charge a fortune by Brazilian standards. It is revolting! They have become my partners in the office.

Is there a favorite project you’ve worked on?

For me the favorite projects are connected to the favorite clients. When they act in a respectful manner and instigate the creation of something interesting, probably it will become a favorite project. It doesn’t matter what it is, from a baby’s cradle to a building on 5th Avenue in New York.

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Do you feel like you’ve “made it”? What has made you feel like you’ve become successful? At what moment/circumstances? Or what will it take to get there?

I am always very critical with myself. I am never satisfied. I never arrive at a project that has just been finished and say: “Super!!!” I never have this pleasure. The sensation that it could always have been better makes architecture a source of pain and dissatisfaction.

Tell us about a current project you’re working on. What was the inspiration behind it?

There are many: a white house in Miami for a client that I like very much, where we play with the incredible light of the city or a hotel in Bali where we have transformed 4 floors in small villas made of bamboo, or a home in LA or a store in São Paulo, Volume “C”, with a sophisticated wooden structure for another incredible client, Houssein Jaruche, my Palestinian friend.

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What’s on your desk right now?

For a change, everything that you can possibly imagine, from a book by Gio Ponti, “Amate L’Architettura” that I received from a professor and friend from Milan, Filippo Bricolo, when I went to give a class this year at the Politecnico di Milano, to even a little plastic pig whose eyes light up when it is talking to a nice wooden cow. Behind my monitor is a box of chocolates designed by Nendo which irritates me because it is very well-designed and I can’t eat it. They will go bad on my desk.

Do you have anything in your home that you’ve designed/created?

I live in an apartment from my first project: an exposed brick and concrete building in a chaotic neighborhood of São Paulo. I have never refurbished this apartment, because I have no time for myself and it seems as if I am still in the 80s. I like this!!!!!