Rui Barbosa, a civil engineer and CEO/partner of KPM Project Management Ltd., first came to Macau ten years ago, to work as the post-handover development began to pick up speed; “So I began working for another company, on a project, and three or four years after that is when I started KPM,” he relates. While his work is directly involved in the contemporary development of the city, he has regularly contributed articles to Macau Lifestyle exploring the history and culture of the area within the context of its architecture and urban design. His writing displays a nuanced understanding of the city’s building constructions as historical texts, and it was a pleasure to visit his office just a short walk from Senado Square and chat with him one afternoon.
What does your company do now?
We mainly do interior design project management, and also now do a lot of “design and builds”, so we are also the main contractors, providing a turnkey solution for clients. Around 90% of our work are residential and corporate fit-out projects, renovations, etc.
Can you tell us about any specific clients?
Yeah, sure. We do a lot of work for Lord Stow’s—we did three projects for their retail shop at the Venetian. We also worked for China Construction Bank. We have worked for a lot of lawyer’s offices in Macau. We also did a project at the airport, for the Air Macau VIP lounge.
That is interesting, how your company day-to-day is involved in the development of the “new Macau” yet at the same time you do have this interest in and comfortable understanding of the “old Macau.” What do you think the importance is of architecture in Macau, in transmitting the story of old Macau into the future? Obviously, the architecture and design tells a story, but how much of this is a conscious plan moving forward here?
I can speak best about clients I have had. For example, if a project includes a building with the old facade, they are concerned about it. They want to keep the elements that relate to how Macau looked 20 years ago, 30 years ago. But, since we are working mainly with private clients, it depends mainly on what is their view. But I think some of our clients do have this view, they want to reach out, to what was Macau and what they want it to be.
I guess my question is, well, obviously a new development in Cotai is not telling a 300-year-old story of Macau, but is it at least the continuation of a narrative, the story of Macau going forward?
I would say yes and no. Some projects do not follow this. At the same time, there are some projects that allow a glimpse of what Macau could be and what Macau wants to be.
That’s an interesting perspective.
Macau can be an “up-to-date” place, it has the means and capacity to be that.
The government must provide at least some direction, in the form of regulation, of preservation, of facades, etc. For example, where the new Cinematheque is located, that was constructed in accordance with those preservation laws, so the facade was untouched.
There is. But this mostly applies to the upkeep of existing structures, not new buildings. And the regulations apply to specific areas.
Do you think there is more the government can do?
I think for the areas that are already protected, they are doing enough—they are doing what they can. I think something that has been in demand for a long time, and that has still not been created or delivered, is a general master plan created by the government. So you would know in this area you can only build four or five stories and in that are you can do this or that. It is hard in Macau because everything has come together so quickly in the last thirty years. But still there should still be some sort of master plan, which can identify areas for new projects.
Should we be doing more to bring the old and new Macau together? Is that something that could be part of a master plan?
If your master plan is well thought out, development can occur naturally, almost automatically. I don’t think it’s something that necessarily needs to be spelled out. One challenge Macau faces is because of its small size and the speed with which development has already taken place, there are fewer areas left that could even be covered by a master plan.
KPM Project Management Ltd. 14-02 Si Toi Commercial Building, 619 Av da Praia Grande, Macau, +853 6675 2499, www.kpm-macau.com