How many LGBTQIA+ architects do you know? Surely you went to school with someone but probably never heard a professor mention one of them. Bringing up these names is key to understanding the fundamental role this population plays in the field of architectural theory and practice. This reveals their experiences more clearly, how they incorporate their identities into design and debates about architecture and urban planning. This is key for any person who identifies as LGBTQIA+ to feel comfortable expressing their individuality and their abilities in the profession.
When searching on the subject, North American and European architects such as Amaza Lee Meredith, Andrés Jaque, Eileen Gray, Joel Sanders, Julia Morgan, Mario Gooden, Paul Rudolph are most often mentioned. However, there are several outstanding professionals from the South who deserve to be remembered because of their work in different contexts and environments and their contribution to global architecture. Here are ten of them.
Canela Grandi (1957)
Canela is a trans architect from Argentina and has completed more than 210 works of architecture, including projects, preliminary designs, and construction management. She has been teaching for over 30 years at the Faculty of Architecture, Planning, and Design of the National University of Rosario, where she graduated. Specializing in organic architecture, she says that after her transition, she makes "a kinder, looser architecture, with curves and soft forms (...) an architecture that celebrates life."
Fernando Martínez Sanabria (1925 - 1991)
Fernando was born in Spain, but due to the Spanish Civil War, he moved to Colombia in 1938. He was a pioneer of organic architecture in this country. Among his most remarkable works are a group of houses he called El Refugio, in the north of Bogota, the urban renewal of Plaza de Bolívar, the Caja Agraria building in Barranquilla, and the square in front of the National University, where he was a professor.
Flávio Império (1935 - 1985)
Flávio Império was an architect, set and costume designer, director, professor, and artist from São Paulo, Brazil. Some of his most notable works in the field of architecture were the projects developed alongside Sérgio Ferro and Rodrigo Lefèvre in Arquitetura Nova, where they discussed the relationship between architectural practice and social change, the importance of the architect's presence on the construction site, and the industrialization of construction and other traditional building techniques. He is considered to be one of the greatest scenographers in Brazil, having worked in major plays at Teatro de Arena, with Augusto Boal, and Teatro Oficina, with Zé Celso Martinez. He has also done the concert stage design for iconic Brazilian musicians, such as Caetano Veloso, Gal Costa, Gilberto Gil, and Maria Bethânia. Flávio was HIV-positive and died shortly before his 50th birthday from bacterial meningitis.
Geoffrey Bawa (1919 - 2003)
Geoffrey Bawa is considered one of the most important Asian architects of the 20th century and has received a significant number of international awards and honors. He is an honorary fellow of the American Institute of Architects and was awarded the Architect of the Year in London (1996) and the Aga Khan Award for Architecture for lifetime achievement (2001). His work has often been the subject of retrospectives around the world, and his style of architecture is characterized by traditional construction elements and techniques applied to modern contexts, the contrast of the outdoor and indoor spaces, and his focus on designing buildings that are optimized for the Sri Lankan climate. Bawa was considered eccentric, and elements of his lifestyle transferred to his designs, particularly the gardens. They are very decorative and eclectic, incorporating English aspects into the traditional tropical landscape. Sensual vistas and walkways, and male nudes in sculptures and etchings often appeared in his designs. He had a notable relationship with the Australian artist Donald Friend.
Gerson Castelo Branco (1948)
Gerson Castelo Branco is a self-taught architect from Piauí. His style of architecture is based on references and life experiences that he describes as "an expression of freedom", the Paraqueira. Inspired by nature, his work is aimed at the well-being of its users. In an interview with ArchDaily, he states that he came across a sexual fluidity and non-judgemental approach that provided "the possibility of being creative regardless of the rules of the system," which led to a collection of works that has been compared to the work of Frank Lloyd Wright in a publication by the Architectural Digest in September 1995.
Jenaro Pindú (1946 - 1993)
Jenaro Pindú was a Paraguayan architect who had his career cut short when he died at the age of 47 from AIDS. He grew up in a wealthy family, as his father was part of the military cadre, but lived in exile through the longest-running South American dictatorship. He traveled to Argentina and Brazil, where he experienced great success at the São Paulo Biennial, particularly as a visual artist. In his native country, his architectural pieces were declared as "urban cultural heritage" in 2017, "taking into account that the architectural work is recognized as an urban landmark and is no longer a neutral space." The architect went beyond civil construction, developing an experimental practice of art, interiors, furniture, landscaping, and scenography projects.
Lota Macedo Soares (1910 - 1967)
Lota was a well-known self-taught architect and landscape designer emerita. She was invited by Carlos Lacerda, governor of the former State of Guanabara (now the municipality of Rio de Janeiro), to design and oversee the construction of Flamengo Park in Rio de Janeiro. She proposed changes to Flamengo Beach that would result in the largest project of land reclamation in the world, Rio de Janeiro's greatest landmark today. In charge of the team that transformed the city's landscape and its relationship with the coastline, she supervised designers such as Burle Marx, Affonso Reidy, and Sérgio Bernardes (the latter designed the house in which Lota lived with her partner, the North American poet Elizabeth Bishop). Before leaving office, she succeeded in getting Flamengo Park declared a national monument, preventing any possibility of land subdivision.
Luís Barragán (1902 - 1988)
One of Mexico's greatest architects, Luis Barragán revolutionized modern architecture in his country with his use of colors reminiscent of the traditional architecture of Mexico. Among his most important projects are the Casa Barragán, the Chapel of the Capuchinas, the Torres de Satélite, "Los Clubes," and the Casa Gilardi. His combination of bright colors and unique landscape designs won him the Pritzker Prize in 1980, the Jalisco Prize in 1985, and, a year before his death, Mexico's National Architecture Award.
Roberto Burle Marx (1909 - 1994)
Probably the most notable landscape designer in the world, Burle Marx was also a painter, illustrator, tapestry maker, jewelry designer, and sculptor. He produced landscape projects in over twenty different countries and was involved in major works of Brazilian modern architecture, such as the Aterro do Flamengo, the Capanema Palace, also known as the Ministry of Education and Health Building, in Rio de Janeiro, and the Monumental Axis, in Brasília, just to name a few. In addition to his designs using natural elements, he also organized several expeditions into Brazilian biomes, becoming a major advocate for plant life preservation and discovering many new native species - more than thirty plants have been named after him.
Tainá de Paula (1983)
Tainá de Paula is an urban activist. She has worked in several urban planning and social housing projects, providing technical assistance to social movements fighting for housing in Brazil. The bisexual architect contributes with a fundamental approach to understanding architecture beyond hegemony and reminds us that "the agents of the 'center' have caused a collapse and systemic inequality." In 2020, Tainá was elected city councilor in Rio de Janeiro, where she advocates for gender neutrality and equality in urban planning through policies against racism, misogyny, and homophobia.