Monthly Archives: August 2013

Staggering Storeys

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

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Jewel Box

Home to the most sophisticated high-end shops in São Paulo, Rua Oscar Freire runs through the Jardins neighbourhood. The area’s increasing land prices make this tree-lined avenue the scene of never-ending construction work. French-Brazilian studio Triptyque calls its most recent addition to the street ‘the observatory’. Because of its height, the building takes full advantage of the site, ‘multiplying’ the amount of rentable space it offers tenants who can’t wait to move into the most desirable, most expensive spot in town.

Architects Grégory Bousquet, Carolina Bueno, Guillaume Sibaud and Olivier Raffaelli set up Triptyque in 2000. The firm has offices in São Paulo and Paris. Innovation is its hallmark. ‘We attempt to usher change into cities,’ says Bousquet, ‘through a generation of alternatives that can shape the course of history.’

And so it was that, when the real-estate developer had committed to the Rua Oscar Freire project, he put his chips on innovative design and accepted Triptyque’s proposal. The brief asked for a small commercial complex comprising three shops with direct access to the street and, on the upper levels, a restaurant, and an art gallery. The first-floor restaurant looks out over a back garden. One level higher, a roof terrace forms a public outdoor space. At that point the building starts anew, so to speak, with a suspended volume at the highest level, designed to house an art gallery.

Basing their concept on the structure of Yona Friedman’s utopian Spatial City, Triptyque’s architects erected ‘a building over a building’, as they call it, or ‘a city over a city’. Their response to the more conventional buildings on Rua Oscar Freire is a truly three-dimensional spatial structure.

Clad in stainless steel – a material that will show the effects of São Paulo’s tropical climate as time goes by – the building’s reflective surface displays partial and blurry images of the surroundings. The roof terrace, which overlooks the trees, is panelled in wood, providing an interesting contrast to the cool metallic skin.

The building looks a bit unsteady, an impression that is reinforced by a seemingly random alignment of the columns, which in turn magnifies the cantilever effect of the suspended volume. Taken together, these aspects of the project suggest both movement and growth and make the small building a micro utopia that goes beyond programme and physical limitations. It’s a project that supports Triptyque’s ideas on contemporary architecture in São Paulo.


author: gustavo hiriart

originally published in Mark #45, Amsterdam, The Netherlands