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ARQ (Santiago)

versión On-line ISSN 0717-6996

ARQ (Santiago)  no.101 Santiago abr. 2019 

Works & projects

The unpredictable and the BC house

Paulo Mendes Da Rocha1 

1 Arquitecto, Universidade Presbiteriana Mackenzie, São Paulo, Brasil.


When it comes to intervening on heritage buildings, the degrees of freedom are usually few because of the order and restrictions imposed by the existing structural skeleton. This building, however, shows an interesting strategy to overcome the limitations posed by the preexistent: adding a parallel structure to increase the degrees of freedom for design while allowing the architects to define a new order for the existing piece.

Keywords: freedom; building; design; history; project

Source: © Nelson Kon

Figure 1 

Figure 2 Site plan. S. 1: 5.000 

The Serviço Social do Comércio (SESC) is an institution that oversees 38 activity centers which bring together various fields of expertise, articulated through a variety of cultural, educational, sports, leisure, and health programs. sesc’s activities are guided by its educational ethics as well as the pursuit of broad social well-being, in which the term ‘culture’ is understood in its full spectrum. In this sense, the full accessibility to the spaces and contents offered by the institution enhances the democratization of cultural values as a form of individual autonomy and the practice of citizenship. SESC 24 de Maio opened in August 2017 and, by January 2018, had already received 1,257,455 people.

We believe that the process of transformation and development of cities such as São Paulo is made by slowly adapting to the changes in customs and way of life of the societies that build them. The new SESC 24 de Maio - which houses a complex set of recreational and service facilities - occupies the former headquarter of the Mesbla department store in downtown São Paulo, and represents an exemplary challenge of intervening in an urban heritage site.

Figure 3 Programmatic diagram 

Figure 4 Plan level −5.00 m, Theatre. S. 1: 500 

Figure 5 Plan level ±0.00 m, Gallery. S. 1: 500 

Figure 6 Plan level +9.00 m, Restaurant. S. 1: 500 

Figure 7 Plan level +24.00 m, Exhibition. S. 1: 500 

Taking such context into account, the design set both to contribute effectively to the upgrading of such remarkable area of the city, as well as to readapt the building structure to a completely new set of uses and specific programs. In order to do so, the following basic ideas were outlined:

1. To house a large open square at the building’s ground level as a central idea of public placemaking, designing it as a gallery-like free passage that is linked to the exciting surroundings of the neighborhood.

2. To transform the former underground garaje into a café and a theater, in direct relation to the neighboring lively streets.

3. To create a new vertical circulation system composed of a generous sequence of ramps, outlining a clear and continuous circuit that sets an architectural promenade and playfully connects the wider urban spaces of the city to the various indoor programs of the new sesc building.

4. To structure a variety of open spaces at strategic levels that are designed as covered elevated squares, thus opening the building to its

surroundings. Such spaces - as the Conviviality Square and the Swimming Pool Garden - have no enclosures and act as hanging gardens along the open circulation network of ramps.

5. To add connections between two levels in some parts of the program, with large parquet flooring, double height ceilings, and upper and lower galleries, so as to enhance the spaces and avoid the monotony of typical overlapping floors.

6. To build a generous square on the rooftop, a solarium that includes an open swimming pool.

7. To concentrate all technical and mechanical infrastructures on an annex structure that acts as an isolated service tower. For this purpose, all infrastructures have been condensed on an extension, built on a contiguous property that had been abandoned years before.

8. To include a set of furniture pieces integral to the architectural design. This has resulted in series of colorful designs, such as chairs, tables, sofas, desks, counters and modular stackable furniture, which complete the building in a joyful and playful manner, strengthening its institutional identity.

In order to achieve these goals - which are at the core of the design’s challenges and direct its spatial character - a series of decisions on building techniques and infrastructural supply were adopted, namely:

1. The selective demolition of specific parts of the structure of the original Mesbla building, maintaining its basic structural elements and central hall, originating on the vertical void around which the new design is structured.

2. The construction of a new and autonomous structure, supported by four main columns that compose the central void, which sustain a series of large interleaved halls as well as the solarium and swimming pool crowning the building on its rooftop.

3. The conversion of the building’s former parking level into a theater by slightly lowering its level while, at the same time, carefully respecting the limits and structural foundations of its neighboring building.

4. The development of an emergency mechanical smoke exhaust system for all floors, as required by local fire regulations. Its complexity allowed a variety of spatial arrangements - such as the double-height ceilings and the completely open circulation network - that normally would not be allowed in a building with such specific uses and design constraints.

Source: © Nelson Kon

Figure 8 

Figure 9 Plan level +41.50 m, Sports. S. 1: 500 

Source: © Nelson Kon

Figure 10  

Figure 11 Plan level +46.00 m, Dancing. S. 1: 500. 

Figure 12 Plan level +51.50 m, Cafeteria. S. 1: 500. 

SESC 24 de Maio

Architects: Paulo Mendes da Rocha + MM BB Arquitetos (Fernando Mello Franco, Marta Moreira, Milton Braga)

Collaborators: Adriano Bergemann, Ana Carina Costa, Ana Carolina Mamede, Cecília Góes, Eduardo Ferroni, Giovanni Meirelles, Gleuson Pinheiro, Guilherme Pianca, Jacques Rordorf, Lucas Vieira, Márcia Terazaki, Maria João Figueiredo, Marina Acayaba, Marina Sabino, Martin Benavidez, Vito Macchione, João Yamamoto, Rafael Monteiro, Rodrigo Brancher, Thiago Rolemberg, Victor Olivera

Location: 24 de Maio 109, São Paulo, Brasil

Promoter: Danilo Santos de Miranda, Director SESC São Paulo

Structural engineering: Kurkdjian e Fruchtengarten Engenheiros Associados

Building foundation: MAG Projesolos Engenheiros Associados

SESC Engineering staff: Eng. Amilcar João Gay Filho

Construction: Mendes Júnior Trading e Engenharia S/A

Hydraulic and electrical engineering: PHE Projetos Hidráulicos e Elétricos

Air conditioning: Thermoplan Engenharia Térmica

Acoustic: Nepomuceno Acústica e Sônica

Scenic projects: J.C. Serroni e Gustavo Lanfranchi

Lighting projects: Rosane Haron (Espaço Luz), Altimar Cypriano

Built area: 27.865 m2

Project year: 2002-2008

Construction year: 2012-2017

Source: © Nelson Kon

Figure 13 

Figure 14 Section AA. S. 1: 500 

Figure 15 Section BB. S. 1: 500 

Figura 16 Plan level +60.00 m, Swimming pool. S. 1: 500 

Source: © Nelson Kon

Figure 17 

Source: © Nelson Kon

Figure 18 

* Paulo Mendes da Rocha Architect, Universidade Presbiteriana Mackenzie, São Paulo, 1954. His 1957 Clube Atlético Paulistano gymnasium brought him public recognition, winning the Grande Prêmio Presidência da República award at the 6th Bienal of São Paulo (1961). Together with Vilanova Artigas, he joined the School of Architecture of the usp in the 1960s. In 1968 won the national project competition for the Brazilian Pavilion at Osaka Expo 70. Has been awarded with the Mies Van der Rohe Foundation Prize, the Pritzker Architecture Prize in 2006, and the Golden Lion for lifetime achievement at 2016 Venice Architecture Biennale.

** MMBB Founded in 1991 by architects Fernando de Mello Franco, Marta Moreira and Milton Braga (current partners are Marta, Milton and Maria João Figueiredo), MM BB has consolidated a comprehensive professional performance, encompassing the development of public and institutional buildings, infrastructure and urbanism. Their Jardim Edite social housing complex has been awarded by the IX Ibero American Architecture and Urbanism Biennale in Rosario (2014) and the São Paulo Art Critics Association (2013), while the Watery Voids proposal won the Best Entry prize at the 3rd International Architecture Biennale of Rotterdam (2007).

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