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"We unite the past and the future by acting in the present," say João Paulo & Liliana Pimentel

João Paulo & Liliana Pimentel design a sensitive piece of architecture to reimagine an urban block in need.

Can you tell us a little about yourself?

João Paulo

I am an Architecture student in my final semester at the Universidade Paulista - Unip, very close to my graduation ceremony. I am originally from Frutal, the city we choose to work in this competition.  Living in the countryside in Brazil is not always easy to access higher education, neither making a living by being an artist in a country so unequal and full of social gaps. So, by researching professional possibilities I discovered the potential of Architecture to fulfill my wish to work with the artistic dimension while contributing to a better world and the social values I learned from my parents. I start studying in Sao Jose do Rio Preto, traveling long distances every day. Brasilia is an icon of modern architecture and in the middle of my course, I decided to challenge myself and moved there alone to conclude my studies, gaining new references and enhancing my skills by immersing in a different reality. I work as an intern with other architects and I am learning a lot and hoping that one day I will have my brand and I will be able to leave my mark as an architect working for the things I believe important in shaping a better urban environment.


I graduated long ago in Architecture and Urban Planning but have studied arts and draw since my teens.  I share my time between teaching and working on the infrastructures and environmental fields since university times. So, nature conservation and bioregional planning were always embedded in my work as a faculty and researcher. Being a civil servant, I have worked in the field a lot at the Frutal area and spent over a year traveling there weekly to attend my second Master Course, which still pending defense, but was worth all the driving 600km back and forth every weekend. I always loved to observe the Veredas and the transition from Mata Atlântica to Cerrado what I treat on my first Masters working with landscape connection through environmental corridors. Frutal is in the river band of the Rio Grande, which is one of my passions, I was also a member of its watershed committee as I work with water issues since my graduation long ago. Those are my passions, learning and education, technology, and environmental conservation, and sure, people and architecture. I love teaching and mentoring young professionals and it is what keeps me working at several private Universities since 2000 and volunteering for organizations working in peace, water, and climate change regionally and worldwide. Getting to college for higher education in Brazil can be struggling challenging and very difficult for the majority of people. I had to face a lot to get my certificate and try honoring the good mentors I had by giving back. And when I see talented and dedicated students I cannot avoid involving in their dreams.

What inspired you to enter the design competition?

João Paulo – I am very used to design and architectural competitions and have been trying several of them, first because I believe it is always something new to learn but mostly because I love challenging myself to enhance my skills. When I read the competition rules and description, I immediately think that I would love to enter this one. I have shown my work to Liliana a few times before and I called her to talk about this one and listen to her opinion, so she offered to join this time, which I accepted promptly. I took Liliana’s classes at the university, so I already knew her style, ideas, and values about architecture and sustainability and we share the same concepts about the value of Architecture being accessible to everyone. I usually prefer working alone as in previous competitions, but I just loved the idea to work with my former professor this time when she offered.  

Liliana – Even working in the field for so long, carry out my career in the governmental sector in parallel with my activities in Academia never gave me enough time to dedicate to participating in competitions. Several years ago, one of my former advisees achieved an amazing result in an important yearly competition getting recognition as one of the best final graduation projects developed by the Architecture and Urban Planning courses in the entire country. It is just so nice when we get that mind connection in teamwork with young professionals and students very dedicated. I always admire the dedication of Joao to pursue recognition of his work but mostly to improve himself constantly. So, I took that I would enjoy participating this time with him in my first competition ever. I participated in classes on retrofit cost-benefit analysis during my time at SPURS/MIT years ago and this theme is actual and fascinating. After the COVID especially, several buildings will have to be rethink as we can easily envision a change in social function and society's behavior. At least in Brazil’s architecture courses, this is a theme that must be deepened in the curricula in my opinion, and even more from now on.

What are some challenges you overcame in creating your design?

João Paulo – For me, the most challenging was how to develop a structure that could embrace the building requiring not too complicated changes, and at the same time complying with the idea of using materials available closely and that could bring back the idea of familiarity in the visual aspect.

It was why we did the decision to use bricks because it is the most traditional construction technique in the Brazilian countryside. And the work with earth and clay is a very traditional activity in this region as well. Think about the entire thing was rewarding and developing the concept under Liliana’s guidance during our meetings was something I enjoyed and stimulated me on doing my best. And in the end, It was unexpected but I felt so blessed to have the entire city discussing, accessing, and involved in understanding the project, interested in the competition results I would say almost participating with us. Makes me believe that my wish to work with architecture by making it popular is correct. I just loved the experience and the involvement of the entire city on this.

Liliana – For me the worst part is not being able to draw on the same paper while I speak out my ideas, I am super attentive to new tools and online environment but I am old school and love sharing a paper to sketch over a mug of coffee. It is also challenging not sounding like a professor when expressing opinions about the project, but always making room for the young professionals involved in a partnership so they can feel confident to express their ideas freely. This is a fine line and reaching this balance is extremely rewarding, so I am grateful for Joao to allow me to train that aspect as well and become part of his team. Another thing I want to point is the fact that we both were out of Frutal and 1000 Km afar from each other as well, so we relied on his parents help to provide details and information, I am very grateful for their help.

Any closing thoughts? Anything you would like the world to know?

João Paulo – I dream to work with the veracity of the architecture and its power to bring back the pride of our ancestor’s knowledge valuing and extracting the best of the local materials and traditions. At the same time demystifying the idea that architecture is not something available for everyone. For me, architecture has an essential character that is work for equality and a better environment accessible and recognized by all.

Liliana – One of the most fascinating things about architecture and urban planning is that you help at the same time in registering and shaping society. We go deep influencing from personal relations to complex global issues. We unite the past and the future by acting in the present. Our profession is present and connected with everything, so do it always with passion. Becoming an architect requires a huge amount of love and respect for others, creatures, life, and the planet. Our empathy shows up in our design. For those facing hard times to study, I say that no matter how hard it looks, your passion can turn true any dream.

João Paulo + Liliana Pimentel a | DesignClassJoão Paulo + Liliana Pimentel a | DesignClassJoão Paulo + Liliana Pimentel a | DesignClassJoão Paulo + Liliana Pimentel a | DesignClass
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