by Anmol AhujaFeb 23, 2021
Getting its title from the two tropics, namely the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn, Dois Tropicos, located in Sao Paulo, Brazil, is a hybrid space conceptualised to exhibit no boundaries. Created by Brazilian studio MNMA, Dois Tropicos at first glance appears to be a residential space, when in fact it is a commercial space. With calm and earthy tones, the studio wanted to create a space which encouraged people to experience the slow passage of time. This idea is especially potent when one considers the functions housed within the project, namely a restaurant, a yoga and massage centre, and a botanical store. Each of these functions are geared towards connecting people and the natural world in different ways. This becomes a connecting thread across the entire space.
As a commercial location, the interior design of each of the programs are allotted a distinct area, however there is a fluidity in the movements between them which is tied together by the materiality of the space. Crafted by local artisans and craftspeople, one of the main materials used is the humble brick. However, these bricks are not used as a standardised element. Subtle variations in the colour of the bricks were strategically created by altering the duration the brick spent in the kiln. According to the studio, the home-like experience that they wished to portray was captured through the ‘lack of perfection’ and the integration of ‘real environments’, into the space.
The inconsistent tonalities, however, still have a rhythm which was determined with the use of extensive technical drawings. The bricks are used in a multitude of different formats, from flooring to the wall-cladding, they are even used as furniture pieces across all three of the functions. The hues of the brick resemble the natural soil of the area and the same colour is reflected on the walls and ceilings of the structure further blurring the boundaries between program, function and form.
Organised across different levels, the project consists of two physical structures separated by a partially covered courtyard. The courtyard is not paved, and is instead covered with granite gravel that facilitates percolation of water. At one end of the courtyard is a ground level structure with a terrace housing the restaurant. Across the courtyard, which displays an array of rare and unique plants, is a two-storey structure with a pitched roof.
A significantly sized plinth separates the two-storey structure from the courtyard. However, the artisanal bricks create a visual and material connection between the two. The idea of the space grew from wanting to highlight the importance of spending time and taking care to experiencing every small pleasure of each of the activities slowly and consciously.
MNMA Studio uses the natural interaction of the earthy material and the movement of the sun to narrate a sense of nostalgia. The texture and the colour of the surfaces serve as an interactive canvas for the sunlight to express itself. The material, when wet, produces a distinct scent that one associates with rain. Both these interactions with the environment invite visitors to pause and take stock of the natural world around them.
The spiral staircase is built using left over raw materials. While the dimensions are based on a precise technical drawing, the actual construction was driven by the materials available on site. This is another example of how the studio has incorporated the idea of ‘imperfection’ as both a gestural detail and as a tool to create an intimate connection between the building and its users. This staircase leads to the yoga and massage space on the first level, which also contains a shower area. The spiral staircase also creates an interesting contrast to what is otherwise a fairly rectilinear design.
However, it is the polycarbonate façade door that truly stands out in this design. It is the one element of Dois Tropicos that does not adhere to the natural colour palette or the notion of imperfection. Drafted and executed to perfection, the glass and aluminium façade pivots and slides to create different opening patterns. The flexibility of the opening allows a controlled movement of light and breeze that reduces the need for artificial cooling.
The environmental and natural ambiance of Dois Tropicos highlights the deep connection between physical space and mental space through its carefully handcrafted details.