Monumental Yet Inviting: ​São Paulo’s New Cultural Center

Pat Finn Pat Finn

São Paulo Arquitetura’s recently opened Espaço Cultural Porto Seguro is a building of contrasting architectural qualities. A windowless, concrete monolith, the cultural center nevertheless allows a great deal of natural light due to strategically placed folds in the asymmetrical design. A latticed wood screen on the front of the building lends texture and warmth to the exterior of the gray structure, which opened in January 2016 and is to host a range of exhibitions, workshops, symposiums and other events in São Paulo.

“The concrete façade with folds creates shadows that become light when the visitors access the interior of the building,” explained São Paulo Arquitetura founders Miguel Muralha and Yuri Vital. “These folds compound the technical organization, dividing the exhibition spaces, guiding the access and ensuring good acoustics, because it breaks the wall’s parallelism.”

The building consists of two adjacent concrete blocks that are separated by a narrow outdoor corridor lined with plants. This scheme allows natural light and air to circulate through the building.

The larger of the two structures contains a grand exhibition space, while the smaller houses offices, classrooms and restrooms. Underneath both structures are large basement spaces, which contain more exhibition spaces as well as technical rooms.

Entering the building, visitors are confronted with a tilted concrete slab separating the entrance hall from the large central gallery, which is illuminated by a massive skylight.

The walkway leading from the main gallery to the mezzanine level is affixed to the outer wall of the building, which runs parallel to the street, allowing visitors to take in views of the neighborhood.

The Espaço Cultural is part of a wider restoration of the Campos Elíseos neighborhood, a once grand section of the city that in recent decades has become associated with poverty, drugs and crime.

“The region went through a messy process of development, and currently, Campos Elíseos has abandoned mansions and a deep stage of social problems,” said the architects. “In contrast to this harsh reality, the new cultural center came to encourage the transformation of the region and improve the local urban scene.”

Pat Finn Author: Pat Finn
Pat Finn is a high school English teacher and a freelance writer on art, architecture, and film. He believes, with Orwell, that "good prose is like a windowpane," but his study of architecture has shown him that a window is only as good as the landscape it looks out on. Pat is based in the New York metro area.
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