SANAA’s Sydney Modern Project takes form as a cascading house of culture
by Jerry ElengicalDec 06, 2022
•make your fridays matter with a well-read weekend
by Jerry ElengicalPublished on : Mar 20, 2023
Brazil’s independence from Portuguese rule came under a peculiar set of circumstances, to say the least. The founding emperor of this nation, Dom Pedro I, who was also the son of the monarch of Portugal at the time, is said to have made the declaration of the new nation's sovereignty on the banks of the Ipiranga Brook—on a site now home to a monument celebrating this very event, which is now the emperor’s final resting place. Further down this waterway, the Museu do Ipiranga, the main cultural arm under the Paulista Museum of the University of São Paulo, is a landmark baroque-style piece of cultural architecture, built as a means to honour Brazilian history and culture on such a prominent site in São Paulo.
Completed in 1895, the museum's design bears a number of influences to the eclectic and emblematic visage of the Palace of Versailles in France, most notably in the tan-coloured tones on its exterior, the strong hints of geometric design, and the extensive manicured lawns, gardens, and other elements of landscape architecture along the promenade that frames its approach from the Rua dos Patriotas. Having been shut for renovations for nearly nine years ago in 2013, this distinguished archive to the era of the Brazilian Empire reopened towards the end of 2022, after a considerable revamp and augmentation project conducted by Brazilian architecture practice H+F Arquitetos, who were awarded the project after an architectural competition.
Sitting inside a massive park towards the southeast of the city, the museum’s façade design is an exquisite study in the use of axial symmetry and rhythm. With a pedimented portico at its centre, the building’s exterior features an abundance of archways, circular windows, all framed by ornate Corinthian columns whose flutes impart a verticality to the lateral motion of the masonry gradations on its faces. Naturally, a heavy-handed and obtrusive new addition to this exemplary piece of architecture would not have escaped the intense scrutiny and wrath of the public eye, with respect to the cultural and historical significance of the structure and its site.
Hence, the Brazilian architects' approach to this hypersensitive situation was to tactfully conceal their work under a cloak of “invisibility.” Instead of purely adding to the structure, their outlook was once centred on the idea of revealing more about what was already present, to explore new relationships between the structure and the park it is the centrepiece of. The two main elements of this project include a massive subterranean concourse that features a new public entrance from the main road leading into the park, and the main structure, along with a vertical service core containing elevators and a staircase design fitted into the central volume.
While the former arm of the intervention features galleries, exhibition areas, laboratories, auxiliary spaces, and a new lobby topped by earth-toned ceilings in waffle-textured concrete, overlooking the gardens and bounding avenues of the site, the latter employs a more industrial-style feel distinguishing the contemporary design additions from the existing structure. This dichotomy permeates the design at various other points. At each turn, the focus is not on the aesthetic qualities of the additions, but rather, on how they enhance what was already there to elevate the building’s original purpose. Exploring these notions in more detail, STIR speaks to Pablo Hereñú, Co-Founder of H+F Arquitetos, on how his team achieved their objectives through a scheme that was implemented in a manner where its presence is felt, but not seen.
Jerry Elengical: What was the initial scope of the project and how did you approach it at first?
Pablo Hereñú: The initial scope was a renovation of the existing structure as well as the creation of a new underground addition, in a specific part of the site. What was not determined by the design competition rules was how the public would enter this new addition. The addition would house a public access point to the museum and a lobby which would be part of this underground segment. So, our concerns involved reorganising the paths the public would take through the park to enter this lobby. The design of the museum lobby was an important aspect which had to be considered by each of the competitors, and we decided to place the new public entrance in the lower part of the park, which was a very strategic decision, because in doing so, we were able to integrate, and perhaps, create a new relation between the museum and the park, which was at that time, separated by this very high retaining wall. Previously, those visiting the museum would just walk around the small part of the park, but now, with this new position of the entrance, the public will be able to experience the park in a more interesting way.
Jerry: What guided your plan of action throughout the design process?
Pablo: Through the design process, we understood the relationship between the existing building, and its role as a landmark, designed as a monument as part of a very ambitious landscape design venture, which integrates the building, the park, and other external elements. But we understood that in the scale of the landscape environment, the relationship was in very good condition. We did not see the necessity of inserting a new element that would transform or impact this relationship between the building, the park, and this monumental landscape that was well-structured. So, our strategy was to create this intervention and insert these new uses in a manner that reflected the theme of invisibility. We wanted the addition to be invisible, but not because we wanted to change its previous organisation, which, in our opinion, was working very well. So all our decisions had a notion in mind where the new building, which is as big as the previously existing one, should be almost invisible in the scale of the landscape.
Jerry: Could you explain each aspect of the renovation and expansion in detail?
Pablo: In the existing building, we mainly had to update the infrastructure, circulation systems, accessibility, elevators—which the building did not have before—and staircases, as needed in a contemporary museum according to safety requirements. So these interventions were concentrated in a new infrastructural core in the centre of the existing building, which is a kind of infrastructural tower inserted inside the pre-existing brick walls. The position of this infrastructural tower allowed us to make it higher than the spaces that were in the same spot earlier.
We decided to make it higher so we could then take the public through the new staircase and elevators to the highest point at the central core of the building. Previously, this was an empty space which had gone unused. There were a few decorative windows to be seen from a distance, but experienced from the inside. We also created a new gallery space at this high point in the centre of the building and on the roof, we provided a new place for the public to look out over the landscape of the park. I think these are essentially the most important things to observe about this project.
Jerry: How did your intervention reconfigure the functional layout inside the building?
Pablo: The existing building was destined to continue housing exhibitions. All parts of the original museum were primarily geared to house exhibitions before they had services, laboratories, and administrative spaces. So, in a way, the building was emptied and free from all other uses aside from public exhibitions. All these functions were relocated in the underground addition, which also houses the public entrance beyond this service, along with a new temporary exhibition gallery.
Jerry: What inspired your selection of the material palette and its use throughout the structure?
Pablo: Regarding the materials that we used in the underground addition, we designed this reinforced concrete structure, and used a pigment in order for the concrete to take on the same colour as the earth which was removed from the site to create the void where we built the extension. We worked with some prototypes during the construction process, experimented with different pigmentation combinations, and compared them with samples of the earth we recovered. Finally, we chose the one that looked just as red as the soil from the region.
Jerry: How do the new additions to the museum interact with the old structure?
Pablo: In the existing building, all the interventions were made in a tectonic way, to clearly distinguish between what is new and what was there before. For instance, we had to create new openings between galleries to improve public circulation through the exhibition space. To create this new opening, steel is the material we employed to organise this intervention. Steel was not used in the existing building, and there are very few metallic elements in the original structure. So that was the material we used to delineate the contemporary interventions and create a contrast between them and the existing structure.
Jerry: What considerations had to be made when working with a heritage building that is over a century old?
Pablo: With respect to the original building, we were very respectful and advised the museum not to put air conditioning in the existing building, because it would have been very aggressive infrastructure to place in such a setting. So, through a very subtle group of interventions in the windows, openings, and roofs, we improved the natural ventilation conditions of the building to secure thermal comfort for the public by permitting air movement without air conditioning or active acclimatisation systems. This was a very important decision that we took with the museum’s direction. The other important design strategy related to the existing building is that the renovation and refurbishment was very conservative. We restored the original atmosphere in the best possible way, but we also tried to mould a new way of seeing this existing building, which we referred to as the “opposite side of the museum.” This includes elements like the decorated ceilings and skylights. We created ways for the public to go to spaces that existed before, but where the intention was not for the public to experience them. This allowed us to reveal elements that were there, but not visible prior to our intervention, without interfering with the original conditions of the scenery and the overall experience inside the building.
Jerry: What were some of the challenges you faced in realising this project?
Pablo: We added this new layer to how the public could experience all the existing elements of the building. Since this addition is underground, one of the challenges was to create the access to this connection from the addition to the existing building. In this strategy of invisibility, it had to be an underground tunnel created by conducting excavations beneath the existing building’s foundation. From a technical point of view, there was a big challenge. We also had to figure out which part of the existing building the public would enter from, and which space should be experienced first. We understood that it should be the same space that the public previously experienced, the original entrance lobby. But that imposed very challenging technical situations because it is a space full of columns and very important decorative elements, so technically it was one of the most difficult spaces to create this connection, but we thought that it was important, and that is what we did.
Name: Modernization And Restoration of the Museu do Ipiranga
Location: São Paulo, Brazil
Year of Completion: 2022
Site Area: 100,000 sqm
Built Area: 16,338.80 sqm
Architecture And General Coordination: H+F Arquitetos
Project Team: Eduardo Ferroni E Pablo Hereñú (Coordination), Camila Omiya , Camila Paim, Felipe Maia, Josephine Poirot Delpech, Leonardo Bonfim, Lúcia Furlan, Luna Brandão, Levy Vitorino, Maria Beatriz Souza, Marina Uematsu , Mateus Loschi , Sofia Toi, Stephanie Galdino
Restoration: Oar (Project) And Paulicéia (Construction Supervision), Olympio Augusto Ribeiro (Coordination); Griselda Klüppel , Anna Beatriz Ayroza Galvão; Mita Ito; Michele Amorim, Naiara Amorim Carvalho, Vivian Oliveira
Structure: Companhia De Projetos
Foundations And Geotechnics: Mag Engenheiros Associados / Nouh Engenharia
Hydraulic And Electrical Installations: Ramoska & Castellani Projetistas Associados Ltda.
Automation And Security: Bettoni Automation, Security And Consulting
Mechanical Facilities / Air Conditioning: THERMOPLAN Thermal Engineering
Landscaping: Raul Pereira Arquitetos Associados
Light Design: Lux Projetos
Expography Design: Metrópole Arquitetos
Conservation Consultancy: Claudia Carvalho
Fire Fighting and Prevention: Feuertec Engenharia
Environmental Comfort: Greenwatt
Acoustics: Harmonia Acústica
Door and Window Consultancy: Dinaflex / Pedro Martins
Accessibility Consultancy: Elisa Prado
Waterproofing: Proassp Assessoria & Projetos
Historical Research: Advisory Memories And Projects
Vegetation Management: CBFT
Vertical Circulation: Empro Engenharia
Earthworks: Estudio Piza Engenharia, Arquitetura E Urb.
Legal Approval: Maia E Martines Arquitetura E Design
Visual Communication: CLDT
General Management: FUSP
Project and Construction Management: SETEC
Construction: CONCREJATO Engenharia
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