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Brazilian space, cement and color

In his native Sâo Paulo, Ruy Ohtake died on November 27 as a result of marrow cancer, and at the age of 83. Son of the painter Tomie Ohtake (1913-2015), who oscillated between the lyrical and the constructive, and of another Japanese immigrant, he did not choose the art of brushes, but that of architecture. Disciple of his much admired Vilanova Artigas, he obtained the title in 1960.

Oscar Niemeyer, from Rio de Janeiro, active not only in Rio, but also in Sâo Paulo, where he built the COPAN or the Biennial building, was his other beacon, and someone he assiduously treated. Ohtake and Niemeyer, who wrote about each other, share a love for Brazilian nature, for the curve, for the organic, and also for brutalist concrete.

Historical cities such as Olinda, Ouro Preto or Paraty were for the Japanese-Brazilian, according to his own confession, a source of inspiration, especially in terms of color.

His emblematic works are, in his hometown, two imposing skyscrapers, the Santa Catarina building, on Avenida Paulista, and the Renaissance Hotel, in neighboring Alameda Santos; the very futuristic Expresso Tiradentes stations; or the residential complex known as 'Redondinhos', the result of the reform of an old favela in Heliópolis. His other hotel in São Paulo, the Unique (2002), with a bold, dizzying, cheerful profile, between geometric and pop, would be popularly renamed as 'the watermelon', 'the half moon', or 'the inverted Noah's Ark'. Also concerned about the environment (Parque Ecológico del Tietê, the river in his city, and another in Indaiatuba, and Aquário do Pantanal in Campo Grande) Ohtake has also been active in the field of furniture, in which he has collaborated with important companies , including the Spanish Roca.

It was especially endearing for the architect to design the residence and studio of his mother (1970), and then the Tomie Ohtake Cultural Institute, inaugurated in 2001, and which perpetuates the legacy of that, for which the graphic artist and cultural manager Ricardo has also ensured Ohtake, brother of the deceased, and who survives him. There have been exhibitions of Picasso, Julio González, Miró, Dalí, Di Cavalcanti, Albers, Frida Kahlo, Noguchi, Louise Bourgeois, Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns, Lichtenstein, Soto, Le Parc, Yoko Ono, Yayoi Kusama, Tunga, Paulo Pasta … Also of architecture (Gaudí, Niemeyer, Artigas, Siza, Ohtake himself…), photography (Pierre Verger, Nicholas Nixon, Sebastiâo Salgado…), cinema (Manoel de Oliveira, Akira Kurosawa…), design (Javier Mariscal), music (Dorival Caymmi), experimental poetry (Paulo Bruscky), fashion …

Recalling its roots, in 1991 Ohtake designed another emblematic building, the Brazilian embassy in Tokyo, on whose facade a large yellow wall and some tropical trees feature the flag of his country. In Sâo Paulo, the saga started by the Kyoto-born painter continues with Rodrigo Ohtake, Ruy's son, and as he architect and furniture designer.


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