Isay Weinfeld

Isay Weinfeld at the Square Nine Hotel, Belgrade

Isay Weinfeld presented his work at Belgrade Design Week 

Blueprint magazine, July 2012

By Herbert Wright

All of these artists and works that you showed us today, how do they effect your design? Subconsciously?

“It’s more than subconscious. It’s not that I take something special… There are things that are in my life and become my personality, the mix of things that I really love, and after that, they are translated through architecture. A text, a movie, any kind of expression, are things that are really inside me. They’re not particular things from one piece of art or another…”

The wishes of the client are paramount, so is that not a conflict in expressing your personality?

“It could be, if I didn’t choose my client. This is why I have to choose my clients. It’s not like they call me, let’s have a meeting, and in five minutes I have a price… I can’t work like this… If they are the right client and I am the right architect for them, because after all, after three or four years, we must have relations like with the Square Nine family here in Belgrade, we are very strong friends. That’s what happens with me with anything in life, not just architecture. I have to feel that they are right for me and I am right for them. That we are looking in the same direction… Lets say I design a restaurant, and I do all the architecture, and I do the table, I choose the chairs. If l have an affinity with this client, I can go away and I know that he will buy the right glasses for the table… They trust me and I trust them. We are looking in the same direction. It’s trust and respect, it’s all about this.”

What do you think about the City of Brasilia?

“What I love in a city is the exact opposite of Brasilia. It’s like Venice, it has… surprise. When you are walking, very narrow streets and, suddenly, Piazza San Marco, you have this sensation, because it’s unexpected. Urban space is so emotional, you have all the sensation. You don’t have this in Brasilia. In Venice you have corners and squares, it’s beautiful… This is life.”

What are the Olympic Games meaning for Rio de Janeiro?

“I have mixed feelings about all these huge events. I read a very interesting article two or three months ago about the London Olympics… stating that Londoners don’t care very much for winning… In Brazil, if it was a normal country, a normal city, I would not care, but in Rio I think the citizens are very motivated to change the city. If they have the right politicians, and I think they have, to make the right things, it will be very good for the city.”

Do you sport a desire to play a role in that kind of development?

“No. I’m always like this – I am sitting in my office waiting for a telephone call. But if someone called me…”

Don’t you feel the responsibility to help make things go right in Rio, with your amazing talent?

“I know my responsibilities, but I don’t have the personality to call the mayor and say: Hello, I’m here, give me something. I don’t know how to do that. I’m very shy. I stay in my office. I never did any PR for my work, never.”

Is your reluctancy connected somehow with scale, or control of details? It’s not a boutique hotel, a piquant restaurant or a minimalistic gallery, it’s a vast, chaotic metropolis…

“No, because I did very small things and very big things.”

…such as, for example, at this very moment?

“From the beginning, as I said today, I hate to repeat myself with the same kind of project. I lead an architectural office for almost 40 years. We have a very wide range of projects, different kinds of projects. Currently, we are designing maybe 8 private houses, 10 buildings between commercial and residential, one in Uruguay, others in São Paulo, a big hotel in Brasilia, 2 hotels in Bahia. We just won an important competition in Monaco. 10 architects, including David Adjaye, were invited from all over the world. Princess Caroline was involved in the competition… We won this competition two months ago, and now we are designing this building in Monaco for them. It’s a private development, very well situated, in front of the garden and the Castile… Then, some restaurants in Brazil, then we are designing some in the Dominican Republic. We designed a very important bookstore in Brazil called Livraria da Vila – now we are designing 14 units for them. Offices, houses in Rio, we are designing a studio for our favorite sculptor. Also a small cultural centre in the South of Brazil, in Porto Alegro.”

This all sounds rather progressive and booming, How big is your practice, in fact?

“We are 40 people strong, now. We have a lot of Portuguese architects in the office. A lot of them come to Brazil now, because of the crisis in Europe and the good economy in Brazil. Many young people, 23, 24, want to come to São Paulo to live and to work. There’s a lot of work. In my office, we employed about four of five of them just in the last one-and-a-half years…”

It is interesting that you have stated you prefer São Paulo to Rio… why?

“Oooh man – Såo Paulo is a crazy city (smiling)”

We have no idea, of course, here in old Europe. Is it something like Brazil’s New York?

“Yes, because the cultural life is very intensive. In one night you can have so much choice – from classical music to electronic to pop to rock. It’s amazing, the cultural life in São Paulo!”

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