Apr 3, 2009
The May edition of Azure magazine just came out and it looks great. And... it has a piece about the very cool lowrise designed by Carol Bueno and her French partners at Triptyque written by... yours truly.
Here is what I said in the article, quoting from Azure:
"Green walls are all the rage worldwide and the design element du jour for any new fashion boutique cultivating a hip image. But nowhere do they seem more fitting than sprawling São Paulo, Brazil, a city where the concrete patchwork and the green sprouting on it and around it have always been forced to co-exist. Thick grasses line congested freeways, mowed half as often as they should. Rainstorms feed vines that crawl and grip graffiti–covered walls enclosing empty lots. At every crack on the sidewalk a wisp of green seems to thrive.
Young architecture firm Triptyque, with offices in Paris and São Paulo, turned this otherwise weedy unkeptness into the strongpoint of their latest project. The walls of Harmonia 57, a three-story lowrise in Vila Madalena, São Paulo’s artsy and bohemian district, are lined with a carefully-edited mosaic of ferns, vines and grasses that have been inserted into earth-filled holes. Rainwater is collected in cylindrical tanks that sit on the ground floor, and is then fed through electric-yellow pipes that run along the walls, dotted with sprinklers that spray a water mist at even intervals. It’s as if the guts of the building were turned inside out, like a living and sweating organism with pulsating tubular arteries and ever-changing green skin.
The foursome behind the project - Grégory Bousquet, Olivier Raffaelli and Guillaume Sibaud from France, and Brazilian Carolina Bueno - see it as “brutish” and as “having a primitive diselegance”. Lines are simple: two assymetrical gray cubes – one raised on pillars, the other not – are linked by a wood and iron footbridge at each story. Atop the back cube, a small observation room affording great views over the concrete jumble resembles a birdhouse. Side walls are near windowless, light flooding in through the street-facing glass-covered walls. Four square and oversize brises-soleils made of sustainable eucalyptus trunks, remotely controlled, can be shut to shield the glassed-in façade from the street. A narrow iron ramp gives access to the underground parking lot, whose dark and square entryway seems to want to swallow the cars whole.
In sharp contrast to the rough cement exterior, interiors are white and stark and open onto square terrasses with wooden decks. Originally designed to house 3 to 6 small offices or studios, Harmonia 57 (named after the actual municipal address) was bought in whole by Farm, a Rio-based fashion brand. Interiors now boast a colourful, slightly kitschy décor that plays with the building’s greenness: floors lined with astro-turf, changing rooms built out of raw wood planks, clothes hanging on the irrigation tubes and filling street-market wooden crates, etc.
The project was featured last year at the Architecture Biennale in Venice, as part of the French pavilion, whose theme was generosity towards the city. How might it be generous? “The building is wide open to those who walk by it, it gives pleasure in its interaction with nature”, say the partners. “This is not architecture that degrades as time goes by, but rather, it will grow and evolve and become more and more exuberant and green with the passing of the years”.
It is not, they are quick to note, a green building in the wider sense of the term. For example, water is pushed through the exterior tubular network by regular electric pumps (the solar panels alternative was less cost-effective, they explain). “Rather than being seen as eco-frienly, we are more interested in exploring the freedom that comes with building in São Paulo, a city that is still growing”, say the architects, who moved there in 2000, and fly to France only when a new job beckons. “Whereas in Paris the focus is on renovating and restoring, here the possibilities are endless”.