Project for an
Exploded Building

Undergraduate Thesis, 2015

When I die I want to stay,
Don’t tell my enemies
Buried in my city,

Bury my feet on Aurora Street,
Leave my sex at Paissandu Square,
My head on Lopes Chaves

In the courtyard of the grammar school
Sink deep my São Paulo heart:
A living heart and a dead man
Close by

Hide my right ear in the Post Office,
The left at the telegraph,
I want to snoop in others’ lives,

Keep my nose close to the rose
My tongue on Ipiranga’s heights
To sing of liberty,

My eyes take down to Jaraguá
They can watch what’s yet to come,
Leave my knee at the University,

Throw my hands just anywhere,
Let them die as they have lived,

Toss my entrails to the devil,
My soul will belong to God.
Farewell. [1]

The partition of Mário de Andrade's body through the city is the starting point for this project. In this “last will poem” published in his final book, the poet describes the way he would like his body to be dismembered throughout the city of Sao Paulo after his death, according to his experiences in life and his affection for some venues of the city. The streets and buildings acquire humanity from the association with the poet’s body: his feet become Aurora Street, his heart turns into Sao Paulo central courtyard.

In search for Mario de Andrade's traces in the city, a route is defined. It Begins on Aurora St, goes across the Paissandu Square and ends in Sao Paulo central courtyard. With an extension of 2.5 kilometers, the route is the site for the project. The partition of the body inspires the partition of the building 'exploded' over seven vacant lots evenly distributed along the poem route. These exploded pieces are all connected by 5-minute walks that aim to merge the building internal circulation with the streets of Sao Paulo. With this operation, building and street interweave in order to create the city.

The circulation between the exploded building’s different fragments cannot be done through walkways or bridges. Their physical separation determines that there is no different circulation but the public space. The city then becomes a fundamental part of the building experience, binding all of it’s different functions. If the city is the only element connecting these different constructions, how is it possible to sustain the idea that they are pieces of one single entity?

There are two ways to approach this question. The first one is found in the analysis of the function. The building consists of extensions of dwelling that create tension between public and private spaces. These single-function buildings come to life through everyday use: classrooms, rehearsal rooms, squares, workshops, studios, a cafeteria and a library. The spaces are connected by the influx of users who experience a personal and unique version of this ensemble, taking a break from the city’s fast-paced rhythm and venturing in the small vacant and residual spots. This net of narratives goes beyond the original route stimulating the urban life that connects them.

Another evidence of the building’s unity can be found in its form and materiality. All the vacant lots follow the same morphology and share a similar scale: they are narrow canyons between high buildings, no wider than 10 meters. The structural principle is simple, based on structural concrete walls on the borders of the site and uniform concrete slabs. Besides that, the different functions are permeated by a single metallic structure that serves as free circulation.

These circulations can be used to access books in the library shelves, to connect two cores of one construction or even to watch work in progress in the workshops and studios. The consistency of scale allows the user to recall the different contexts in which they were assigned. This uniform materiality builds intimacy between constructions, transforming the experience of a single space into the experience of the building in its totality.

I wish I could visit the city that Andrade describes in his poem. How would be an Aurora st for someone to let their feet there, and in what Sao Paulo courtyard would someone let their heart? Could one find reminiscences of Sao Paulo from the poem in the streets today? In fact, there is no longer gossip about others’ lives in the Telegraph nor roses on Ipiranga’s heights. But there is something of ours in Mario de Andrade’s time: Sao Paulo’s heart is still beating in the central courtyard, and maybe that is enough.

[1] Mário de Andrade: The Creative Works, by José I. Suárez,Jack E. Tomlins, p. 162
Winner of the Opera Prima Architecture Thesis Competition
Links to the presentation boards and full thesis