Brazilian architect Marcio Kogan has built some of the nation’s most impressive modernist homes and buildings. For a perfect meal he picks food from a classic São Paulo venue to share with friends in the familiar surroundings of his office.
“Asked to choose my last meal I find myself thinking back to childhood – to a dish my grandmother used to make when I was very little. My grandparents came to Brazil from eastern Europe. My mother’s parents were from Poland and my father’s from Ukraine.
Out of all the things she cooked for us, my grandmother’s Milanesa breaded beef fillet is the most unforgettable. Since she couldn’t afford a lot of meat, she cut the fillet into very fine pieces. In fact, it looked like she cut it with a laser. The meat melted in my mouth. I could never follow her recipe half as well as she did.
You can find this dish on the menu of Riviera Bar, the new project designed by our office. In the São Paulo of the 1960s, the Riviera was a place where leftist intellectuals gathered to drink and criticise the government. I was too young to order a beer in those days so I never made it to the iconic watering hole. But I have a special connection with that turbulent decade: historically and culturally. I just like everything about the 1960s – the music, the architecture, the movies and the food. And, in Brazil at least, Milanesa as a dish is very much of that era.
It was during that decade that my life abruptly changed. I was 15 or 16 years old and I was skipping class when it started pouring with rain. Without even knowing what was playing, I went into a movie theatre to get out of the rain. On the screen was The Silence by Ingmar Bergman. The movie was an epiphany – emotionally as well as aesthetically. The story was one I could identify with deeply since my father died unexpectedly, tragically, when I was eight years old. He was killed in a car theft – at a time when there was virtually no such crime in São Paulo. Thereafter, my childhood and adolescence were joyless. On the day that I met Bergman, my life at last returned to living colour. I could feel the power of art and see the profound role it could play in the life of a man.
Now I was in a quandary. I could not decide whether I wanted to be a filmmaker or an architect. But since my father, Aron Kogan, was a civil engineer who had built several of the modernist buildings in São Paulo, I guess my career was already mapped out for me. But that didn’t mean I could forget about cinema.
Like Isay Weinfeld, one of my greatest friends and my partner in many projects, I was trained not just in architecture but also in other disciplines. When we studied architecture together in the 1970s we made 13 short films together. We shared a passion for literature, too. Though my heart always belonged to Bergman.
I would have my last meal in my office – since I spend most of my time there. But to cook I’d invite the Riviera’s Argentine chef Luciano “Lucho” Nardelli. My guests would be the architects who have worked closely with me: Pedro Ribeiro, Diana Radomysler, Suzana Glogowski and Renata Furlanetto; we’re working on a fantastic project in Barcelona. I am always trying to find ways to make my office a more pluralistic and democratic place. A place where people actively participate. That’s why it’s called Studio mk27 and not Studio Marcio Kogan.
I like to cook. I used to be quite dedicated. But not since I found out, five years ago, that my cholesterol was too high. My culinary repertoire never tended towards low calories or healthy food. But, hey, since this is going to be my last meal, cholesterol be damned. For my last meal on Earth I can’t just order a salad, can I?”
A 1976 graduate of São Paulo’s Faculdade de Arquitetura e Urbanismo Mackenzie, Marcio Kogan is one of Brazil’s most decorated architects. He is an honorary member of the American Institute of Architects. Along with Isay Weinfeld he has developed some of his country’s most iconic projects, such as the Hotel Fasano. In the 1970s and 1980s, he and Weinfeld made 13 short films and one feature film together. Kogan’s Studio MK27 develops projects in Brazil, Spain and Vietnam among other countries.
Bar Riviera is one of the busiest and best-loved venues in São Paulo. It reached its peak of fame in the 1960s as a hotbed of leftist intellectual ideas and anti-government thinking. It reopened a year ago after renovation by Studio MK27. For his last meal, Kogan chose the Riviera’s chef to cook lunch for him and some of his partners in his beloved office.
Appetiser: Romaine lettuce, anchovy vinaigrette dressing and croutons.
Main course: Milanesa sandwich with tomatoes, rocket, aioli and cheese on a ciabatta.
Dessert: Profiteroles with caramel, chocolate, ice cream and fleur de sel.
Argentine red wine Catena Malbec; sparkling and still water.