Obituary

This is an article from the Architecture Australia archives and may use outdated formatting

VALE BELINDA BRITO 1972–2005

Photograph Ben Hewitt

Photograph Ben Hewitt

Sydney’s architectural community recently lost one of its brightest young participants. Ben Hewett and Maryam Gusheh remember their cheeky, energetic and committed friend and colleague.

Belinda Andre Brito was tragically killed in a car accident in the early morning of Tuesday 20 December 2005.

Belinda studied architecture at the University of New South Wales from 1991 to 1996. In 1994 she participated in an exchange programme at McGill University in Montreal, Canada, taking part in Alberto Perez-Gomez’s studio. During her education in Sydney she worked in the offices of Bruce Rickard and Graeme Hewett.

Upon graduating, Belinda worked with Sam Marshall in Sydney, and also developed a relationship with Julie Cracknell and Peter Lonergan, before relocating to Portugal. She spent some time in her parents’ home town of Santa Barbara de Nexe, designing a number of (unrealized) houses in the area, before moving to Lisbon to work. Upon her return to Sydney, Belinda worked with Allen Jack + Cottier and then established her own practice in 2000. Belinda starting teaching at UNSW in 2001 and was appointed lecturer in architecture in 2003. In this capacity she made a significant contribution to the coordination and teaching of the core design studios, working both at first year and final year levels. In 2005 she played an important role in the administration of the design stream, assisting Michael Tawa in his coordination of undergraduate design education at UNSW. Charles Rice and Maryam Gusheh worked closely with Belinda at UNSW and accompanied her on many off-campus lunches!

Belinda is deeply loved by family and friends. The loss to her parents and extended family is immeasurable. Over thirteen years Belinda and I formed a very close relationship – she was my greatest friend, design partner and soul mate.

Belinda slipped into the folds of my family with an ease and totality, becoming an inseparable wife, daughter and sister.

Wherever Be was, she brought love, laughter and joy and gave generously of her intellect, spirit and physical being.

Belinda was highly creative, pursuing not only architecture, but also painting, photography, dance, film-making and, with an ever-increasing talent, cooking (every meal was an event to cherish!). Her first solo exhibition, Flesh, in Sydney, 2002, demonstrated a beautiful control of colour and form, treading a line between the figurative and the abstract. To witness her in the creative act was inspirational – so very present and engaged, she achieved a freedom in simply being. It is with good reason she was known as “Be”.

In her architecture Belinda designed for the moments of being. How these moments might organize space, or, how space could be structured around a series of events, intimacies, relationships and possibilities.

We worked on a number of architectural projects together, learning from each other’s process, and relishing our complementary strengths. It was a fulfilling creative relationship that would have continued to grow and develop.

Belinda was an intelligent and critical teacher, yet approachable and generous to all she worked with, students and colleagues alike. She invested a huge amount of time in her teaching and students, part of her strong commitment to making a difference in all that she did.

There was very little sitting back and talking about it; Belinda got in there and did it!

I will miss conversations with Belinda.

The enthusiasm for a beautiful piece of art or music; the critique of and joy in architecture; the planning of a meal; the appreciation of a simple moment … She had an easy laugh, effortless style, a cheeky manner and a smile that lit up my world.

Her boundless energy, her rigorous and demanding approach to all she did, and above all her tremendous passion, will continue to live and to inspire.

BEN HEWETT IS BELINDA BRITO’S HUSBAND AND ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR AT CRONE PARTNERS ARCHITECTURE STUDIOS.When I think of Belinda, I think of the first time we taught together. We sat in the front row, during a screening of Wim Wenders’ 1994 film, Lisbon Story. Together we watched the sound engineer, Philip Winters, meander through the streets of Lisbon, filling in the missing sounds for a silent film. He searched for the ambience of the place, capturing the character of the city through sound. Belinda had set Winters as the client for her first year studio programme, asking the students to design a home for this sound maker. Beautifully shot, the film offered an alluring urban portrait of Lisbon – a city Belinda loved and knew well – presenting the urban fabric as the spatial support for everyday events and human relations. Belinda talked and taught about architecture tangentially, often through film, music, painting and cuisine – architecture as a frame for the pleasures that life brings.

Belinda and I studied architecture during the early 1990s at UNSW and met again as academics within the same institution. She was a vital and much adored friend. I last saw her the day before the accident. We talked about the new year, her plans to undertake a masters degree in Barcelona, to organize a tour of Alvaro Siza’s work in July and restructure the second year design programme. We organized to have lunch later that week. On her way out she stopped by my office door, “See you Mazz”, big smile, and she left with her laptop on her back. And then she was gone.

She is so present in my thoughts. I think of her at work, so vibrant and energetic and so vital to the place; of how respected she was. I think of her generosity with all her students who thought the world of her.

I think of her fast pace, as she walked up and down those corridors, looking very cool and beautifully asymmetrical. I think of her problematic propensity towards procrastination and perfectionism! I think of her artfulness and interest in the details and particularities of things; I think of her strong resonating voice, her humour, wit and humility, her reserve and gentle shyness and I think of what was to come and the wonder that the architectural community in Sydney has lost.

And then I think of all that she meant to me and how desperately I will miss her, always.

MARYAM GUSHEH IS A LECTURER AT THE UNIVERSITY OF NEW SOUTH WALES AND A CLOSE FRIEND AND COLLEAGUE OF BELINDA BRITO.

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Published online: 1 Mar 2006

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Architecture Australia, March 2006

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