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Paulo Mendes da Rocha and MMBB Arquitetos transform disused São Paulo tower block into vibrant leisure destination

By Kim Megson    28 Mar 2018
Created for Brazilian non-profit SESC, the 14-storey building, situated on Rua 24 de Maio and Rua Dom José de Barro, has been stripped of several unnecessary elements

Brazilian design studio MMBB Arquitetos and legendary architect Paulo Mendes da Rocha have collaborated on the transformation of a disused tower block in central São Paulo into a vibrant leisure destination for the city.

Created for Brazilian non-profit SESC, the 14-storey building, situated on Rua 24 de Maio and Rua Dom José de Barro, has been stripped of several unnecessary elements – including a bankrupt department store at its heart – to clear space.

New facilities have been introduced in their place, including a health club, climbing wall, library, restaurant, galleries, cafe, dance studio, rooftop swimming pool and a subterranean theatre. Hanging gardens, covered squares and balconies create additional mini public spaces across the building.

Circulation has been enhanced with the introduction of large ramps connecting each floor. According to the design team, “in addition to their main function, these liven up the visitor experience, allowing an unleashed and playful stroll through the building.”

“Our design approach was to make the whole building breathe better and more suitable for its new uses,” they added in a statement.

The structure’s glass cladding has been revamped to expose life inside the building, invite pedestrians in and provide panoramic views of the city for its users.

Da Rocha is famous for his numerous cultural buildings in Brazil, particularly in Sao Paulo. Built in his trademark Brutalist style with exposed concrete structures and rough finishes, these include the Athletic Club of São Paulo, the Brazilian Sculpture Museum MuBE (1988), Patriach Plaza (1992-2002), the Pinacoteca do Estado gallery (1993) and the FIESP Cultural Center (1997).

He was awarded the 2017 Royal Gold Medal for architecture by the Royal Institute of British Architects – an accolade given to a person or group of people who have had a significant influence “either directly or indirectly on the advancement of architecture”.

The preceding year, he won the Praemium Imperiale global prize, among the most valuable in the profession, from the Japan Art Association and the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement at the 2016 Venice Biennale.

Several high-profile leisure and hospitality projects are being developed in São Paulo, including a plant-covered Rosewood hotel designed by Jean Nouvel and an Oetker Collection hotel within an abandoned Brazilian palace designed by the iconic late architect Oscar Niemeyer.

New facilities have been introduced in their place, including a health club, climbing wall, library, restaurant, galleries, cafe, dance studio, rooftop swimming pool and a subterranean theatre
The building is a new leisure destination for the people of São Paulo
A health club and climbing wall are among the leisure facilities that have opened
Circulation has been enhanced with the introduction of large ramps connecting each floor, allowing visiotrs to stroll through the building
da Rocha was awarded the 2017 Royal Gold Medal for architecture by the Royal Institute of British Architects / RIBA
MMBB Arquitetos  Paulo Mendes da Rocha  São Paulo  leisure  SESC  Brazil 
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