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ARQ (Santiago)

versión On-line ISSN 0717-6996

ARQ (Santiago)  no.92 Santiago abr. 2016 


Praça das Artes
Urbanism Made of Architecture
São Paulo, Brasil, 2012


Francisco Fanucci *, Marcelo Ferraz*

* Partner Brasil Arquitetura, São Paulo, Brasil. (1)


In a metropolis like São Paulo, where buildings resemble a native forest and where the surplus of vehicles has threatened the sense of the city, to think of architecture as urbanism –granting more public space for pedestrians– is an exception. By opening to the street the empty spaces inside the block, the Praça das Artes does just that, transforming into public space what was once the most private space of all.

Palabras clave: public space, ground, void, pedestrian, São Paulo.

© Nelson Kon

© Nelson Kon

In times of total crisis of urban comfort due to the failure of a city model based on cars and social inequality, nothing sounds more reasonable and imperative than to resume the agenda of urbanism and architecture, to rethink why we build cities and what kind of cities we want to build.

The laws and regulations designed to forge and control cities no longer guarantee the quality of urban space or the urban comfort required for social coexistence. Neither do generic or macro scale urban plans guarantee the quality of public spaces. In some cases they may work, but usually fail when materialized as architecture at a human scale.

Jane Jacobs’ dream of understanding human issues as fuel for the design and building of cities, was always thought to be on the architectural scale, on the scope of the project that affects –for better or worse– the individual citizen or group. Where is the comfort scale to be found? Where is that scale that mediates between different everyday functions? Theoretically it is at the architectural scale of urban projects, but in our current cities it doesn’t exist, given an almost total lack of architecture.

First floor plan level 0,00m.
Published scale 1: 1.250

Second floor plan level +4,00 m
Published scale 1: 1.250

Third floor plan level +7,00 m
Published scale 1: 1.250
Legend: 1. Access Av. São João; 2. Covered plaza; 3. Hall; 4. Exhibitions; 5.Document center; 6. Restaurant; 7. Auditorium; 8. Access by Conselheiro Crispiniano; 9. Plaza; 10. Cafeteria; 11.Verdi sculpture; 12. Access Formosa; 13. Orchestras rehearsal room; 14. Dance rehearsal room;15. Music rehearsal room; 16. Terrace; 17. Administration; 18. Concert hall; 19. Dressing room; 20. Garden terrace; 21. Access between buildings; 22. Chorus rehearsal room; 23. Director’s room; 24.Choirs support rooms

Proposal sketches

Reunion of Ideas

In 1981 we participated along with Lina Bo Bardi in the competition for the project of re-urbanising the Vale do Anhangabaú. Obviously we didn’t even receive an honorable mention. Our entry was considered a prank. And what was our proposal for the Vale do Anhangabaú? To take the car far away from the ground and onto a thin, elevated metallic structure that would cut the valley in two, as a highline. No tunnels or water collectors, all in order to free space for people by creating a park, a garden or a major plaza for all of those who live in or pass by the city. Neither more nor less than the litany that we constantly preach and listen to.

Thirty years later we were able to design and build the Praça das Artes. In both cases the design intentions were explicit. We tried to understand what was obsolete, without use or function, that which was now out-dated from our previous urban design; a design that configured the city of the 19th century which had deteriorated together with contemporary anachronism.

Today, the houses or small buildings with back-yard gardens belonging to the long Portuguese sites are no longer justified. They usually end up generating an empty void. Empty in both a physical and figurative sense: without buildings or use. These are the square meters that contribute to real estate profit, in the perverse calculation of coefficients and floor area ratios considered by building industry, something far from the social function of property. What is surprising is that they are actual areas, spaces that have lost their useful features. In other words, places that are ‘non-places’ that no longer hold life.

AA Section
Published scale 1: 1.250

BB Section
Published scale 1: 1.250

From these leftovers, or better, with those remains of the city dispute, we built the Praça das Artes, and we could have built Anhangabaú again. As there are many voids in the city centre, there are many possibilities of transforming and reintegrating these spaces through projects.

Our project for the Vale do Anhangabaú rose through lateral slopes conquering new areas, incorporating sites and expanding frontiers. The same occurs in the Praça das Artes: a project that is born from the depths and is conformed by them, showing up to the city while revealing its origins: the failure of an urban model that is no longer consistent with life in the metropolis. Therefore, as a form of criticism, we did not occupy the empty ground level, not even with columns. This also allowed us to think about an architecture that is made from difficulties and restrictions, that doesn’t need plain land as a plinth. But this becomes the topic of another discussion.

Transformative Heritage

Considering central voids as heritage, which means that these, by disgrace, have never been part of the agenda of urban decisions. We mean that urban plans never start from available assets; they don’t rely on built heritage to develop and justify themselves. They tend to destroy the old city to build a new one; they don’t manage to develop them simultaneously or to overlap them, as in Lisbon, Paris or Istanbul. This relates to dominant ideas and practices of both the preservationists, that are up for putting heritage on an altar or display as a fragile, useless porcelain, and developers (or demolishers) that, in the name of progress fight to destroy heritage opening new paths for easy profit.

The urbanism that we want is made out of grass, plants, steel, cement, and trees; raw materials that conform and configure the project. It is made with a clear motivation for transformation and a search towards people’s comfort. It is made of architecture.

Site plan
Published scale: 1: 12.500

Building under construction
© Sylvia Masini

Architects: Marcos Cartum (Secretaria Municipal de Cultura) Francisco Fanucci, Marcelo Ferraz, Luciana Dornellas (Brasil Arquitetura) / Collaboratprs: Cícero Ferraz Cruz, Fabiana Fernandes Paiva, Anselmo Turazzi, Carol Silva Moreira / Team: Anne Dieterich, Beatriz Marques de Oliveira, Felipe Zene, Fred Meyer, Gabriel Grispum, Gabriel Mendonça, Victor Gurgel, Pedro Del Guerra, Thomas Kelley, Vinícius Spira / Location: Rua Conselheiro Crispiniano, Rua Formosa, Avenida São João. São Paulo, Brasil / Client: Secretaria Municipal de Cultura, Municipalidad de São Paulo / Structural engineering: FTOyamada / Construction: Consórcio Construcap/Triunfo / Budget: USD $ 37.560.000 / Built surface: 28.500 m² / Project year: 2006 /Construction year: 2012

1. Brasil Arquitetura | Founded in 1979 and headquartered in Sâo Paulo, Brazil, the office led by Francisco Fanucci (FAU-USP, 1977) and Marcelo Ferraz (FAU-USP, 1978) develops projects of architectural design, urban planning, restoration and interior design. Between 1977 and 1992 they collaborated with Lina Bo Bardi where they worked in the project for the SESC Pompeia in Sâo Paulo. Among the publications of their work we can find Francisco Fanucci & Marcelo Ferraz - Brasil Arquitetura (Cosac Naify, 2005), Brazil Arquitetura + Marcos Cartum (Uzina Books, 2013), and also the book Praça das Artes (Azougue Editorial, 2013) by the author Victor Nosek about their project in Sâo Paulo.

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