Brazilian Museum of Sculpture in São Paulo, Brazil by Paulo Mendes da Rocha, 1988
Paulo Mendes da Rocha's Brazilian Museum of Sculpture in
São Paulo, Brazil is a simple yet provocative design
that uses a large beam to give the museum a presence, while
also fulfilling the need for shade and shelter for
the exterior plaza. The architect's sketch, at left
(click images for larger and expanded views),
clearly illustrates this idea and its focus toward
the visitors that use the plaza for relaxation,
relief and performances.
The image at left shows the entry to the museum which is
actually buried under the plaza. The museum's differing ceiling
heights create a stepped outdoor space that is split
by the entry fissure. These different heights also
accommodate the stepping required to create outdoor
seating for the plaza space, giving it a
multi-functionality that is usually required for art
institutions and their treatment of open space.
An interesting aspect, and possibly unintended consequence,
of the raised concrete beam is its framing of the
surroundings. Depending on the visitor's proximity
to the structure, a short, wide sliver of space is
visible between the beam and the plaza surface, and
with the dull gray of both the view beyond is
emphasized, gaining importance through the visitor's experience.
Much like sculpture changes in relation to the viewer, the
context is changed by the building's presence and
the visitor's relation to it.
Paulo Mendes da Rocha's building was a finalist for the first
Mies van der Rohe Award for
Latin-American Architecture in 1998, a prize that
went to Enrique Norten for a multi-use building in
Mexico. The award helped to give exposure contemporary
architecture in Latin-American countries, overlooked by most
western-focused publications, a condition that is slowly
changing as architects like Norten and Mendes da
Rocha become more well known internationally.