The São Paolo–based firm Rocco, Vidal + arquitetos is merging with Perkins+Will, giving the global firm a larger footprint in South America's fastest-growing market.
Rocco, Vidal—which has an office of more than 50, led by managing principal Fernando Bento Vidal and design principal Luiz Fernando Rocco—boasts a host of clients throughout Brazil. The new partnership, which will practice under the name RoccoVidal P+W, serves to establish a new level of design services in Brazil.
"They [Rocco and Vidal] have their own reputation in the São Paolo region," Perkins+Will CEO Phil Harrison, FAIA, says. "They’re known. It’s a union of complementary firms."
Harrison explains that the merger will ease the global firm's work across a variety of client-service standpoints. Brazil's legal structure can be an impediment to Western design firms and clients that want to establish new offices or ventures in the world's sixth largest economy.
In June, Brazil's economy grew at its fastest pace in almost two years. That helps to explain why Thompson Reuters, Goldman Sachs, and a major cosmetics research and design company—all Perkins+Will clients—are building new offices there. "Those companies are used to doing business with a certain speed," he says. "They are much more comfortable working with global design firms."
But design needs in Brazil will also drive work at RoccoVidal P+W. Brazilian design firms tend to be small and undiversified offices, which lack the resources necessary to satisfy the nation's growing design as it comes online. "It will look and feel like a Brazilian company," Harrison says. "They will also have access to the full resources of Perkins+Will. We want to be sensitive as possible to the needs of the market."
RoccoVidal P+W willl be the first full-service global design firm to establish a foothold in Brazil. Harrison says that regulatory, tax, and legal obstacles led Perkins+Will to seek a partnership, and that the merger with Rocco, Vidal will ease the entrance for potential clients into the market.
"The opportunity is large, but it’s potentially risky," Harrison says. "We’re going in with a very intuitive sense of 200 million people, who have needs for every type of building, every type of planning, every type of urban district." In São Paolo alone, he says, there is unmet demand for new hotels, hospitals, schools, and other typologies. "Brazil is in a position to invest in its infrastructure—not nearly with the speed that China is doing, but still. It's a relatively frontier position, with a fairly high degree of risk."
The name for the merged firm represents the first time that Perkins+Will has abbreviated its name, a decision spurred by language sensitivity. According to Harrison, the words "perkins and will," spoken out loud, sound somewhat similar to a Portuguese word with a rude meaning. RoccoVidal P+W will be doing work primarily in Portuguese, which comes with its own challenges. The firm is currently implementing training in Portuguese for Autodesk Revit, to name just one example.
Brazil's newfound energy independence has driven its economy's explosive growth, and foreign investment is outpacing the nation's building infrastructure. Perkins+Will hopes to match Brazil's already high design standards with building performance standards.
"We are building what we think is the first true global design practice in Brazil," he says.