“Fabrizio Lenci, 29 years old, I have a degree in architecture but I work with everything that involves architecture/design/graphics, everything that’s multimedia.”
Tell us a little bit about how you became an illustrator, architect and designer.
The truth is that my job is to draw – if I had to define what is it that I do, it’s drawing. And drawing has a wide range of things you can work with, actually I decided to study architecture because I loved drawing, that was what playing was to me, I spent hours at home just drawing. I remember well this old printer my father had, and it had a long continuous piece of paper, and I would just spread them open on the floor and just draw for hours.
When I finished school I wanted to draw, but there were no drawing courses and I didn’t want to study design or Illustration. So I ended up choosing architecture and that was the best decision I made in my life because I learned to draw in architecture college. During college, I understood the power that drawing had – from technical drawing where you transform an idea into something executable, to contemplative drawing which its only function is to look cool, nice and communicative. A drawing will give or some technical information or an emotion, an opinion, and that is something I developed in parallel.
When did you start thinking about Urban spaces and drawing the city?
When I got into college I didn’t know anything about the city, but since I was very young I liked listening to hardcore, punk rock, and so I was always at Galeria do Rock, Hangar 110. I lived at Ibirapuera, a completely residential neighborhood that had nothing to do. I would take the bus with my friends and we would go to the center and I would just go crazy man, I didn’t know what it was, but I felt a connection with that place, I thought it was awesome. I think what turns me on so much about this place is the diversity – a bunch of different people in the same place, that you don’t see in any other neighborhood, I think only the center has that power in São Paulo. And because it’s a neighborhood that opened to the streets and not locked up in houses or condos, and that would awaken something within me but I didn’t know what it was.
In college, when I started to take urbanism class and I would go to the center to study, that’s when I started going nuts. Even so, I was still very young, and today I can see how it evolved for me: the importance of what’s, in fact, a city is something I try to take with me in São Paulo. Everyone says that this city is horrible, and in a lot of aspects it really is, but if you can reshape your life around it, you can have a European type lifestyle. Of course, it depends a lot on what neighborhood you leave in, but a center is a place that can provide you with that feeling. It’s kind of bizarre to say that, but it feels European in the sense of how you use the city, how the streets are really a meeting point. If you’re in Europe a guy would never invite you for a beer in his house because the streets are the meeting point, there’s a lot of squares, a lot of bars, you just sit on the sidewalk with no fear of anything, people are not paranoid. Here is a totally different situation, because the first thing you do with your friends is to go to their house because that’s where you will hang out, not on the streets.
That’s one of the reasons I chose the streets as the location for this shoot, you out there at the mercy of everything that’s going on around you. You’re out there drawing and some dude might come up to you, and you are in his space, he’s been there for 15 years, you just passing by, so you are an invader. You gotta learn to exist mutually and man, it’s not that hard, people are so afraid for no reason. Not live because of fear is the worst thing people can do to the city because then they don’t get to know their own city.
Know to answer your question I think my appreciation for the urban environment happened when I realized that the life I wanted to live, was the one where I would use the city and all that it had to offer. So, I hate cars, I like going out to get my food every day, I like getting to know my neighbors, when I realized that that was the life I wanted to live, that’s where all my fascination for the city came from.
What is Vapor 324?
Vapor is where I work, it’s an architecture, design and audiovisual studio. It was founded by me and three other associates that went to college with me. They were older than me and I would always say that they were the guys that I wanted to work with when I was younger I thought they were awesome. Not to mention my college was small and everyone knew each other. We became friends and started working together in the school’s basement, where we would make like lamps for the school’s parties. It started working out and we moved to an office with 9 friends, it lasted about 3 years. Later on, we split up and along with these 3 guys we founded Vapor, and it’s been 4 years now.
We develop various projects within architecture and design. The projects are divided in construction work: we have a strong performance on renovation and creating projects for restaurants, apartments, houses, furniture, we are very keen on drawing everything millimetrically, and executing intelligent and honest architecture. We also operate with graphic design and illustration: visual identity, graphic identities for festivals, shows, events. I’ve done a lot of stuff for newspapers, I drew a lot of stuff for Estadão and Folha de São Paulo and magazines. We also have an audiovisual sector that’s responsible for installations, projections, video mapping and animation.
The idea that we have is that all areas can come together, that’s what we like doing the most. For example, when we make an audiovisual installation like we did for Virada Cultural, you have to draw it, you have to make a project: architecture comes in, you draw one of the peace, make it according to the clients budget; then you take that drawing and you animated on the computer and then you put the audiovisual on the installation. You see, everything comes together. That’s the coolest part. Even when we make animations for social media, like the ones for Red Bull Music Academy, the graphic part ends up helping the audiovisual. And one of my partners is doing a lot of soundtracks, so we’re producing everything right here.
It’s really cool but there’s a down side where we end up competing with people that are experts in a specific area, for example when somebody asked for a video or an animation we are never the first option because there are people out there that do just animation. So our gap is getting the clients to understand what we do and want us because we do everything. And that is already happening, Sesc, for example, is a very loyal client that works with us, specifically because we do a bit of everything. We are working on the inauguration of Sesc 24 de Maio, that is, we created the entire graphic material for the inauguration. – From the invitations to the maps; we will also make animations that will play on the subways, and that goes along with the rest of the pieces. And they also called us to work on the editing for the documentary about the building. So that’s the type of client that understands that you are in for the entire project and everything that goes with it. When we have an architecture project where we also do the graphic design for that project or when there’s an audiovisual installation, that’s the kind of work we like the most.
To me Vapor is like a dream job, I never thought of me working somewhere else. You get on like personal crises for real, where I feel like I don’t work, and that I’m slacking off, and I end up feeling kind of bad. But when I really stop to think about it, I see that I do what I really like. I think like “holy shit! I’m getting paid to sit around and draw all day, how cool is that” (laughs). But sometimes is hard because we work a lot, I stay here at least 9h every day of the week. But we have a really good and light environment here. There are tough weeks especially this year, and I’m not into the whole work till you die speech, you know? I think it’s nonsense. Everyone that works at Vapor is talented enough to be working somewhere else and making a lot more money, but that’s not what we want. To me success is relative, it’s not only about the money, it’s about how is your life on a day to day basis, and for us, it’s been insane so far.
Maybe it’s a premise for architecture, but would you say that your projects have any impact on the city and on people’s lives?
In my opinion, when in architecture you are involved in the public area, you have to be very responsible because you are building something that has to stand for at least 100 years. It’s difficult working with the public powers, it’s easier working with private clients. So when you do architecture project you have to think about who’s going to use it, it has to be as comfortable and coherent with the user of that space. We aren’t formalists at all, in the sense of going and start to think about its forms because it looks better, we always think about the user first – and as a consequence, you make good looking stuff, because if you don’t you get lost along the way. You can make everything look good, so you have to make it work first. Secondly, you need to think about all the scales, so who uses it can feel good in a well ventilated, well-illuminated space, with good acoustics, smart and coherent materials, spending the minimum energy as possible. Even when it comes down to the hands on work itself, who is going to build it, does it make sense in 2017 to use semi-slave workers? It’s important for your process to be coherent.
Now the graphic work has 2 major functions which are to make life easier, facilitate reading and understanding a message that needs to be put out there. For example, there are a huge amount people that go to Sesc, and you have to communicate all those different types of people. I think that good work is smart work, you have to know who you are communicating with before anything else. And my personal opinion, everything has to look good, I know it’s kind of relative, but everything has to be well made. It’s hard to see something that’s well made but doesn’t look good.
What’s your relationship with the city?
It’s the best possible. I have a love hate relationship with São Paulo – more love than hate, because I know it has the potential to be really dope but it isn’t since it’s not being used. It has awesome geography, it has 2 insane rivers going through it and it has a lot of good people, good architects, a lot of people who think the city, but nevertheless, years go by and nothing changes. There is a huge lack of public spaces, of bike lanes, of programs to make the city a more pleasant and nice place just like they are out there. Here we wait until there’s a huge demand, to take any kind of action, for example, let’s wait until there are a million cyclists before we can make a bicycle lane, instead of making the lanes to encourage people to use them. This is the part that I hate.
But the love I have for the city is because I think that São Paulo is really awesome, it’s a city that in certain neighborhoods like the Center, expanded – Center, many different cultures come together in a way that doesn’t happen anywhere else. For example, the Pari neighborhood is a huge Syrian-Lebanese immigration colony, also a very recent Bolivian one as well, there is also a Korean one from the 80s, there are mosques, women with burkas on the streets, there’s some Portuguese as well all in the same place, all at the same time. And it’s not like they are interacting with each other because that would be a lie, but everything is happening right there, coexisting, and I just think it’s so dope. Besides the city is so beautiful, the old center, the new center, they’re marvelous. So I reshaped my life to be incredible: Me and my wife live in a very old building in the center with no gate or nothing, I have no car, I only use my bike, I work in the center so I go out to eat every day in all the different places I know, it’s so nice. The city gave me a lot – my job, my passion for drawing. What I draw, comes a lot from observing the city around me, not to mention all the people I met through bike riding, during night rides; I made a lot of friends on the streets.
Which places of the city would you take someone?
There is this place that I love, that it’s an old bar at Liberdade called Kintaro – to me this place is the definition of São Paulo. It belongs to an immigrant family that prospered selling food, it’s an old bar that sums up what São Paulo is, and there’s from sfihas to colored eggs, or from caipirinhas to sakes. I really like Liberdade, to me, it’s a really photogenic place. I would also take them to Ita, that I also love, it’s a Portuguese family that opened this bar to sell bacalhau on Fridays, but they also sell Brazilian food. There is this thing of immigrants adapting to the local culture, and I think it’s incredible how it happens so organically over here.
There is this path that I love going on here, that I call “the touristy path”. If a foreigner came here I would put them in a car or on a bike and go through the path: You start at Paulist with Consolação, then you cross the entire Paulista Av, you go through Liberdade, and you turn behind Praça da Sé, go by Patio do Colegio until Largo São Bento and take Libero Badadó till Viaduto do Chá, then you turn right and once you went through the overpass you go behind the Teatro municipal and take Av. São João. To me, there is no better route to take a tourist, and it has to be done at night. A lot of times when I need to think, I take my bike and do it.
Is there a part of São Paulo that you identify with?
I really like the Becos dos Aflitos, that is close to Liberdade square. It’s a place that people say is haunted and stuff, but I love it because it has an alley geography to it that you don’t usually find in São Paulo. And it feels like you in a Bruce Lee type movie, it looks like it’s somewhere in New York; these kind of places are dope. And I hate cars, I hate driving, and these alleys have very few cars because they are so small and it’s hard to park.
Describe to us what an ideal day would be in Fabrizio’s daily routine.
An ideal day would be, to wake up and go paddle a bit – going back to the subject, that’s one of the things I don’t like about São Paulo, there are very few places you can ride your bike. It’s USP, the bike lane, and the road, but it’s a pain in the ass going out of São Paulo to ride on the road. And this is something that I miss, having nature close to where you are peddling. But anyway, the ideal day is to wake up, ride my bike, go back home, take a shower, have breakfast, get my bike again, stop on the way to get some more coffee, like at KOF or at Beluga’s, get to work, and the ideal day I just create stuff and not have to handle any problems. Then I leave and stop by the market to get some thing to cook and then I go home, and I keep drawing (laughs). There’s a lot of days like this.
what role do your sneakers play on your daily hustle?
I have this theory where I can make out a person based on what sneakers they wear, completely. So I already know when I’m going to have some trouble with that person when I see their sneakers (laughs) But I think that sneakers are an extension of your personality, you can know a lot about a person because of that. You can make out what she likes, if she drives a car, if she walks a lot, if she skateboards if she paddles, if she is fitness, you can see everything. Knowing this, I’m really picky when it comes to my sneakers, I only use the ones I really like, and they are the only thing I wear, I rarely wear shoes – only when it’s really necessary. My job allows me to be who I am, so I wear what I want, and I go meets always with my sneakers.
The thing that I look for the most is the comfort because I walk a lot on foot, so I really like comfortable shoes. when I’m going out for a bike ride, I wear some sneaker with a harder outsole because they take longer to get destroyed. I really like clean looking sneakers, I like all black sneakers – and this has a lot to do with the way I dress because my closet is made out of black white and gray clothes, and some few navy blue one.
Everyone that works with images, architecture, design, creation – you sell good drawings so you care about what you are wearing, and what I believe is a good drawing, it has to be functional, good looking, intelligent.