One could be led to think that a strong concept of form embodied in a compelling physical presence might push aside other elements of architectural design, such as a building’s function or its relationship to the surroundings. Although this is sometimes the case in contemporary architecture, it is not so with the office building at Rua João Moura 1144 in São Paulo, designed by brother and sister Pedro and Lua Nitsche of Nitsche Arquitetos.
Located between the Pinheiros and Vila Madalena neighbourhoods, the building is a creative solution by architects who successfully tackled the restrictions posed by local regulations and the peculiarities of the site, while remaining committed to function and rational design. Project developer Idea Zarvos, a company that believes architectural quality adds real value to a building, participated actively in the decision-making processes.
The site, a long strip between Rua João Moura and Rua Cristiano Viana, presented the Nitsches with a 16-m slope, the lowest point of which coincides with the bottom of a valley (and the groundwater table). Consequently, they used the first three storeys of the building for parking garages, avoiding excessive excavation.
This decision led to establishing the ground floor at the highest point of the site. It is a collective space with a dining area, breakout areas, terraces and a separate pavilion with a café. From there, the building rises 25 m, the maximum height permitted by the municipal building code.
On the entrance side, a 10-m setback softens the contrast between the large office building and the street, while also providing passers-by with a full view of the project. The terraced northeast façade, which offers the most salient image, responds to the need for sunlight to reach a villa at the centre of the block.
Concrete beams, each 12 m long, create continuous and fluid spaces, with only one fixed element, along the southeast façade, accommodating circulation and services, and freeing the northwest façade for an intervention that the architects call a ‘display for the city’. Consisting of coloured panels and reinforcing the setback, it is the work of artist João Nitsche (Lua and Pedro’s brother), with whom the architects occasionally collaborate. His decorative pattern of panels and windows corresponds to a building-code fire regulation, which states that windows should not be aligned vertically.
As seen from the Sumaré Avenue viaduct, the new office building – highlighted by its shape, size and colour – stands out as a striking addition to the neighbourhood and a stark contrast to the poorly designed contemporary architecture surrounding it. The restrictions on this building propelled its design.
author: gustavo hiriart
originally published in Mark #45, Amsterdam, The Netherlands