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

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