Architecture as a dream interpretation  

Alessandro M. Crostarosa

A    R    C    H    I    T    E    C    T


          Towards the end of the seventies, after having gained experience in a few well-known architectural studios, I left Italy due to the lack of creative opportunities that every architect yearns for, and, on the look out for new openings, I began a new stage in my life in Bùzios, where my sister had a house by the sea, just two hours by car from Rio De Janeiro. This small town is situated on a peninsula which protrudes arrogantly out into the Atlantic Ocean; a coastal area made up of expansive beaches alongside pale sandy bays that shyly elbow their way between awe-inspiring rocks. The vegetation is clearly more Mediterranean than tropical; a microclimate that in the sixties became the scene of a love story between Brigitte Bardot and Bob Zaguri. A romance that overturned this small fishing village, bringing it international fame, so much so, that it became a place for cinema stars, politicians and business people to hang out and so for many years, has, by entitlement, been twinned with Saint Tropez, both because it’s the actress’s home town and for the common spirit to be found among visitors of both places. I chose a small paradise as my natural habitat, far from the chaos and pollution typical of big cities, where even interpersonal relationships have lost the openness of the post-war years and wellbeing has become just ostentation.

          With little practical experience as an architect, newly graduated and no prospective clients, I had to invent something to do. Demand for places to stay or rooms to rent was high, due to the increase in tourism, so I began by renting a small fisherman’s house on a three year contract which, once renovated, in agreement with the owners, would allow me to sublet the rooms. Beginning the work I soon realised that it would be impossible to get by with a simple renovation, given the precariousness of the construction and my own inexhaustible quest for perfection. I decided, therefore, to opt for its complete demolition. The owners were the first to put their trust in me, even if they never confessed how many nights’ sleep they lost worrying about seeing the only premises they owned taken away from them. I instead had simply created the space to develop my first project and the conditions to make it happen. I was my own first client and the second person to have faith in me, first as an entrepreneur and then as an architect. From that living space I created a living room, a kitchen, five rooms to rent out, each with a bathroom and a pleasant veranda looking out on to the street: built on two floors, but without losing the typical charm of the houses in the village. 

      Dona Laura's house before demolition          
       Búzios Estado do Rio de Janeiro BRAZIL

     Dona Laura's house after reconstruction       
         Búzios Estado do Rio de Janeiro BRAZIL

                Dona Laura's house by night                    
         Búzios Estado do Rio de Janeiro BRAZIL

           I used it as a B&B and at the end of the of thirty-six month period, I handed the keys back to the owner, Dona Laura. I realised that it was the owner who got the best deal, as I had only just managed to get back the sum invested. The fisherman’s wife, mindful that many of her relations had been tricked by foreigners, couldn’t believe that one was giving her   back a new house after just three years, which would be a source of income for the rest of her life. For me, it seemed the most natural thing to do, even if the contract had been concluded by a simple handshake, and their guarantee was my sense of honour. It was also the most natural thing for me that Dona Laura included me in her prayers when she went to church; and she went almost every day.

          I gained the respect of the local people and for the first time I felt part of a large family. It’s pointless saying that I was offered other houses that I dealt with in the same way, except for the fact that I extended the length of the contract to five years so as not to go bankrupt. Step by step my first clients for residential or commercial constructions began to emerge and what surprised me was that my name was only spread around by the locals and in addition to the fishermen themselves, a number of new friends already rooted in the region, who have appreciate my work, spreading it even more. These people have helped me to go on even in the most difficult moments making me know the true meaning of friendship, which is more than natural for Jewish friends.

          In Bùzios tradition dictated that constructions had to be supported by wooden structures, poles, such as pillars and beams, made from tree trunks. In more recent times they were connected by skilful joints to construct the skeleton of the wall to which a lattice of woven  branches were fixed. Clay was then thrown on these to make up the cladding. In ecological terms, a wall made of earth has a low environmental impact, the characteristic of a hygrometric regulator: it absorbs humidity, which it then releases when the surrounding air becomes dry; a thermic inertia due to its volume density, or in other words it retains heat and slows down its release and finally it considerably reduces electromagnetic waves. Characteristics (except the latter one) that the locals knew well, but the main reason for using these building techniques throughout the centuries rose from the total absence of cost, as all materials were supplied by mother nature. Even the roofing tiles were made from that same clay moulded on a slave’s thighs before being baked. A poor and inventive type of architecture that acted as a stimulus for the style that would become the leitmotiv of Bùzios. In substitution of the wooden lattice and clay, in modern times local builders started to use perforated brick, quick to build with and easy to plaster. The poles were exchanged for square section timber (15 x 15 cm or 20 x 20 cm) or rectangular (15 x 30 cm for more light), cut by hand using an axe following a line which stretched from one end to the other.

                    Jorge Colaço's Seaside House                     Búzios Estado do Rio de Janeiro BRAZIL
              "Cruzeiro do Sul" Terraced Houses                Búzios Estado do Rio de Janeiro BRAZIL
                      "Adamastor" Restaurant                       Búzios Estado do Rio de Janeiro BRAZIL

                               Private House in final phase of construction                              Búzios Estado do Rio de Janeiro BRAZIL

                                          Private House in "Alto de Búzios"                                                                        Búzios Estado do Rio de Janeiro BRAZIL

Private house  living room in the pool level with apparent roof joists following Búzios's tradition.                         Búzios Estado do Rio de Janeiro BRAZIL
Private house  wood structure in the stairwell conecting the dining room to the living room.                         Búzios Estado do Rio de Janeiro BRAZIL
Handbasin built in a eucalyptus trunk in the middle of a bay window, mirrors are in the two side.                     Búzios Estado do Rio de Janeiro BRAZIL          
Terraced House - Living room with wood structure of an overhanging mezzanine cutting a vertical window.                 Búzios Estado do Rio de Janeiro BRAZIL
 Terraced House - "Cruzeiro do Sul" each                     apartment with its own small pool.                                                      Bûzios Estado do Rio de Janeiro BRAZIL
Private House - pool entering toward the bar in the      middle of the living room.   
               Búzios Estado do Rio de Janeiro BRAZIL
          This phase lasted around ten years until some Arab clients visiting the village asked who had designed those premises swarming with people, those enterprises that were doing a bustling business. They were attracted by the economic results of the entrepreneurs and the quick return on investments. When I arrived in this promised land there were only three professionals, including myself, and I was easily the one that lived the place to the full, as, the other two, despite offering high levels of professionalism, tended to work in other fields and often outside the village. Work made up of passion and sensitivity, building restaurants, pubs, ‘pousadas’ (small guest houses) and private houses of every size and type, convinced the Lebanese to invite me to go to work for them in Paranà. This opened doors for me, developing a series of commercial and residential projects in Londrina (Little London), a city founded by the British around a century ago. Here a second phase began for me, no longer rustic, tied to the use of primitive materials, but a modern phase, where sophistication and technology were musts. In San Paolo, capital of South America and the city where it was necessary to go to resolve more complicated problems, my clients put the most qualified technicians available at my disposal: architects, engineers, physicists and lighting technicians. In Londrina home of the best ‘fazende’ (coffee bean farms) in Brazil and ‘nelore’ thoroughbred cattle breeding and Arabian horses, the soil is made up of such rich humus that it is among the most fertile and therefore the most valuable in Brazil. From these wealthy and well to do clients, mostly land owners used to travelling the world and seeing the latest innovations in architecture and furniture, a new way of conceiving space and finishings was outlined. We could in fact say that my clients, who were ever more demanding, contributed to the design evolution which made me more mature and complete as an architect. 

                           Gilka Fashion House                           
Londrina Estado do Paranà BRAZIL                                                                                                                                                                                            

                             Gilka Fashion House                                        Londrina Estado do Paranà BRAZIL      

                           Gilka Fashion House                              Londrina Estado do Paranà BRAZIL

Empo                   First Empório Guimarães                      Londrina Estado do Paranà BRAZIL
                       First Empório Guimarães                        Londrina Estado do Paranà BRAZIL
                        First Empório Guimarães                                           Londrina Estado do Paranà BRAZIL

                                         Total reconstruction Private House                                                                                    Londrina Estado do Paranà BRAZIL


                                                   Two Semi - Detached Villas                                                                                  Curitiba Estado do Paranà BRAZIL
Even here my clients were all private individuals, which meant that I had complete freedom of action, also because, by now in my clients’ eyes, the work I had already done was a guarantee for my future work, so there were no limits put on my imagination. This freedom allowed me to develop the restoration of the historic centre of Londrina – if historic is the right word for a city just 100 years old – which was now run down and crumbling. We renovated the old warehouses that had been used as factories or coffee and rice depots in the years when Londrina had been world capital for the production of coffee. They became a meeting place for Londrina night life, with restaurants, pubs, discotheques and pizzerias.

          Fame that I didn’t expect and which was certainly backed up by a series of lucky streaks: who knows if Dona Laura’s prayers contributed to all of this. I discovered that you only needed courage to offer yourself as you really are, for your proposals to be accepted without limits or to be totally excluded. From the houses of the most important local entrepreneurs to fashionable discotheques, from various, exclusive commercial activities to the Country Club renovations, everything made me love that city and the period I spent there: my professional success was becoming reality.

          Up until 1995 I had gathered together a small amount of capital thanks to my design work and more often than not the realisation of the projects. This money had to be invested and to find the right market niche I relocated to Curitiba, provincial capital of the state of Paranà and ecological city par excellence. There the concept of terraced houses was fashionable for all the different social levels while in Londrina they were considered only as a solution for working class accommodation and in this case my savings weren’t enough to finance the construction of an apartment building, also due to the fact that they were generally high rises with many floors. I therefore set up a small construction company to complete buildings within my price range on land I had purchased.

          From 2002, when my second daughter was born, my wife and I decided to return to Italy to be able to give my daughters a European education and, as I can admit today, the calling of my birthplace and my Italian roots played an important role in making this decision.

          In Rome city and in the province of Rome I carried out various work for Italian clients and also followed the construction stages. At the same time I followed through the creation of residential projects in Paris for private clients.

          At the end of my daughters’ schooling we decided to offer them the best possible culmination of their European education, which only the British education system can offer, so we have moved to the United Kingdom to acquire a new culture.

    Bar Counter Kalahari Discotheque Piano Bar                          Londrina Estado do Paranà BRAZIL                                 
            Paolo e Noemia D'Amico Wine Stand                                             Verona ITALY
               DJ Location Kalahari Discotheque                                Londrina Estado do Paranà BRAZIL