Like a nod or greeting, the overhanging floor of the Moreira Salles Institute of São Paulo (IMS) will be built just a tad closer to the sidewalk of Paulista Avenue, thus beckoning passersby to enter. The large volume of the IMS building will make it appear lighter, as if floating ten meters off the ground. The line of the floor then straightens and, at the end, in a second movement, descends, becoming the ceiling of a terrace where there will be a café. The movement of this large strip spreads out like a wave in the deep. The profile view shows the path of the architecture. And it is by various connected paths come together to compose the IMS.
Under this overhanging floor next to the sidewalk, a visitor, or even a curious passerby, would be presented with the choice of two paths. A slightly graded ramp that descends to the ground floor, to the elevators, the shop and restaurant. Or walk up to the café on the terrace of the mezzanine, as the other path for those entering. Taking either of the two asphalt ramps that climb the sides of the building will lead one around the building, perhaps observing the activity below, until finally arriving at the café.
But one can also get there by taking a wide, freestanding stairway that reaches from the inside ground floor to the outside mezzanine. The two paths are joined by this stairway. Or by a smaller stairway in the garden which will be installed at the back of the property. The small garden—in full view from atop the café or extending out from the restaurant, which will be located beyond the large stairway—with its trees, grass and sculptures, will compose a peaceful, even bucolic, nook, only forty meters from the marvelous Paulista Avenue and the overhanging floor of the building which it rises against, inviting but aloof, alongside the sidewalk.
Perhaps the curiosity of those that pass by will be quelled by seeing the images projected on the front glass, which reaches to the height of the mezzanine. “Pão de Açucar” by Marc Ferrez, a photo by Robert Capa, or a hundred-year-old picture of the Paulista Avenue itself. Or perhaps looking further up, since the overhanging floor will have a large glass front so that the activity in the foyer adjacent to the auditorium will exchange glances with those on the avenue. But that’s not all. The floor of the foyer, in a certain way, sums up the IMS. It is a place of words and images. It transforms itself into an uninterrupted space, by opening the doors of the auditorium, expanding the audience of a film or a debate, diluting the limits that usually divide these spaces.
Given the various options of paths and views, the volume of 13 m across and approximately 40 m both in depth and height, despite its apparent suspension, is perhaps what most catches the eye. Its bright spots, its shade, its different though similar tones, its grayish color, kind of bluish, from the sheets of zinc that will cover the IMS in a second operation will provide lightness to the building.
The zinc, in addition to not rusting or polluting, will also make the colors of its pre-patina finish last for many decades. Still used rarely vertically or in building façades, it has long been used as a roofing material. In Brazil, zinc roofs are used as one of the primary solutions to cover humble dwellings. In addition to being humble, they are also poor homes, but not in the bricolage aesthetic that they portray so well.
The photographs of Elisa Bracher of these homes are very similar to the poetics of her etchings that, in turn, are broken down into large sheets of superimposed lead. Her collaboration on the project for the IMS of São Paulo as a designer of its four vertical sidings came out of a combination of what was intended to cover the building and an expansion of scale, ultimately pursuing its poetics. Conceived as large zinc collages, with some common traits and a gradation of similar tones between the pieces, and a certain indefiniteness, they are reminiscent, by a happy coincidence, of what is considered the first permanent photograph in the world, created by Niépce in 1826 in his own backyard.
The façades and rooftops also stand out in the photograph by Niépce. So many coincidences lead us to believe in a type of need, if Latin America’s most important collection of photographs wasn’t reason enough. But the smooth contrasting façades of the collages by Elisa Bracher also meet the requirement of being contemporary, one of the aims of the architecture of the IMS, breaking with the visual continuity between the interior and exterior of a building that was almost obligatory in modern architecture. Here, to the contrary, the relationship between the interior and exterior was conceived as discontinuous, in an understanding that public spaces are different and contiguous and have more complex relations than the old idea of peaceful visual continuity between inside and outside, public and private.
It is true that public spaces are not necessarily open. A space is private or public because of the type social interaction that it promotes. The street, however, and in a very special way the Paulista Avenue, is a public space par excellence. And its contemporaneity is easily observed from the avenue at building level and in the express lane below where graffiti reveals the opaqueness, almost anonymous remnants of contemporary society and the complexity of the society which inhabits it.
The nature of the relationship of IMS with neighboring buildings is unlike the one the front entryway has with the avenue. There is too much glass in São Paulo. In the administrative, educational and research areas and also in the exhibition halls, the IMS will continue to be a public space, despite the more intense public use of the exhibition areas. The closing of the main volume of the building in relation to adjacent buildings is actually more a matter of mutual respect, which is also a public value, than a case of being inward looking.
Not so many openings are needed to illuminate work and research areas. The top three stories of the IMS, reserved for administration, research and education, receive half of their light through translucent glass at the front and the left of the building. This also creates a veranda, a type of lookout, on the lowest of the three levels, while the other half receives light through transparent glass on the right side and at the back of the building, creating also another veranda, in a stretch in which the IMS does not flank the neighboring building.
The top two exhibition floors do not have natural lighting, as is standard, while the third level has an oblique cut from the front of the building down the side, which is also one of the building’s most distinguishing features. This transparent glass panel is set diagonally in a part of the exhibition room, but it can also be closed from the inside. The natural lighting, although beautiful, many times can suddenly become too bright. The choice of using natural lighting is a decision that depends on the works exhibited and not on a univocal project concept that can’t be adjusted for later.
Because of its many floors, but also due to the circulation on each one of them and, above all, between them, the IMS of the Paulista Avenue will be a type of spiral, ascending and descending, or both, depending on the visitor, which will run the gamut of practically all of the arts and that will also serve as a venue for various types of education and debate. As such, does the IMS, a haven for so many faces of the human spirit, escape a single definition? This is debatable. Will it be just another work of architecture housing art and culture on the vast Paulista Avenue?
However, this just is actually a much. Since the IMS of São Paulo will be as much a fact as an emblem. Situated at the intersection of heavily traveled roads that lead to their most dynamic vectors, among them the Paulista itself, the IMS will be erected on one of the most synergistic points of the city of São Paulo and on an avenue, which due to its relative height, straightness and aloofness, the denizens of São Paulo have elected as the heart of the city and the place where they commemorate everything that the city has a reason to celebrate.
There is not a more citizen-friendly space in the city. And this promotion of citizenship, because it is a space for all arts, research and cultural debate, makes the IMS something unique in Brazil. There is no place more São Paulo like than the new surroundings of the future IMS. It will be at the geographic, urban and emotional center of São Paulo, another reason for celebration. And, by the constant and unvarying work of the IMS to celebrate daily on the Paulista Avenue itself.
São Paulo, SP
UNA arquitetos: Cristiane Muniz, Fábio Valentim, Fernanda Barbara e Fernando Viégas
+ Alberto Tassinari, Cristiano Mascaro e Elisa Bracher
Ana Paula de Castro, Carolina Klocker, Clóvis Cunha, Eduardo Martorelli, Enk Te Winkel, Fabiana Cyon, Fabrice Zaini, Gabriela Gurgel, Hugo Bellini, Igor Cortinove, Marta Onofre, Miguel Muralha, Paula Saito, Pedro Saito e Sílio Almeida.
Companhia de Projetos
Daniela Ferraz, Enk Te Winkel, Jimmy Liendo, João Toth e Paula Saito
Outros Filmes (Otávio Cury)
Carina Bueno e Serguei Dias
Parafuso, Orquestra Popular de Câmara (Composição de Ronen Altman)
Glenn C. Johnston