Richard Meier in Rio: Modernism Meets Tropicalia in the Architect's South American Debut

Rendering of the future Leblon Offices in Rio, designed by Richard Meier
(Courtesy Richard Meier & Partners)

After spending last year traipsing below the border to break ground on his first few projects in Mexico, Richard Meier is heading below the equator to start his first South American project: a light, modernist office building in the beach-lined metropolis and future Olympic host city Rio de Janeiro. 

Situated on prime beach-front real estate in Leblon, Rio's most affluent neighborhood, the high-end, 10-story building has been designed to optimize the climate-related advantages that come with building in paradise. Because of the low energy demands of the year-round good weather, the architects were free to plan without having to accommodate unnecessary cladding on the exterior or insulating the interior. They did include a concrete wall, which provides a rough contrast to the sleek white aluminum and glass façade.

"Brazil is the country of modern architecture," project architect Bernhard Karpf told ARTINFO. "It reminds me of the early days of Le Corbusier and early Oscar Niemeyer buildings where everything just really was what it was, without layers and cladding, no extra this or extra that. Very simple, very straightforward stuff makes it very easy and very elegant. We wanted to take advantage of that situation."

Free to create a sense of openness and airiness that cold weather usually prohibits, the firm also designed an internal courtyard to bring natural light and ventilation to all parts of the building, despite the existing structures that will flank it on three sides.  To add a little greenery,"we’re trying to find out how you build a vertical garden, which is a bit more difficult than a horizontal garden," according to Karpf. Taking a cue from Herzog & de Meuron's lush, living wall at the CaixaForum in Madrid, they "figured we could do something like that on a smaller scale."

To see renderings of the forthcoming Richard Meier project in Rio de Janeiro, click the slide show.