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The prodigious son

By Rebecca Lo (China Daily)

08:21, May 07, 2012

Clockwise from right: Little Rabbit Pavilion, the Macao SAR Pavilion at the Shanghai World Expo, designed by Carlos Marreiros. Tap Seac is one of Marreiros' projects in Macao. Preliminary sketches by Carlos Marreiros in 2008. Photos by Gabriele Masera for China Daily

One of Macao's most outspoken voices on cultural identity, architect Carlos Marreiros considers all of his projects like his own children, Rebecca Lo finds.

In the shade of ancient trees, the genteel ochre-colored exterior of architect Carlos Marreiros' studio is a blast from the past that's somewhat incongruous amid the glitzy skyscrapers of modern Macao. After being shown to a boardroom with lofty ceilings and a central table piled high with exhibition brochures and design books, I am served coffee in tiny espresso cups with sugar on the side. No milk. A few minutes later, an imposing gentleman dressed in jeans and black jacket strolls in, shakes my hand and ushers me over to the opposite side of the room. "Let's sit here," says Marreiros, settling near an open window while offering me a cigarette from his pack of Marlboros. "I'm smoking." Amused and a tad nonplussed by his seamless combination of gracious host and political incorrectness, I decline. Carlos Albertos dos Santos Marreiros has never shied away from doing things his way.

Born in 1957, he is a poster child for the cultural melting pot that is Macao. On his father's side, he is descended from Spaniards who settled in Portugal in the early 17th century. His mother is Eurasian, with a father from the Santos family - one of the oldest names in Macao - and a Chinese mother descended from Zhongshan.

"I was educated to respect Chinese and Western cultures," recalls Marreiros. "When I was young, my father used to show me around Macao's heritage buildings - not only the churches but also the Chinese temples."

It was natural that he pursued a career in architecture. He obtained his master's degree at the Technical University of Lisbon, followed by an internship in Germany and additional studies in Sweden.

Upon his return to Macao, Marreiros concentrated on urban-renewal projects. He currently runs one of the largest architectural firms in Macao, working on private and public buildings in Macao, Hong Kong and the Chinese mainland.

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