Stacked Leisure

Stacked Leisure

Paulo Mendes da Rocha and Mmbb set social standards in the heart of São Paulo.

Nearly every leisure activity imaginable can be undertaken at the new Sesc 24 de Maio in the historic centre of São Paulo. Paolo Mendes da Rocha and MMBB Arquitetos stacked spaces for music, sports,
theatre, exhibitions, a library and a restaurant within the Serviço Social do Comércio (Sesc). Wide concrete
ramps at its rear connect its 14 levels into a lively public urban landscape for up to 5,000 visitors daily. Here fitness fans young and old commingle with newspaper readers, capoeira groups and concert goers. Swimming lessons for children and aqua gymnastics for seniors take place in the rooftop pool overlooking the skyline of the Brazilian megacity. Such an exclusive location would normally be reserved for wealthy Paulistas. But this is not the case at the non-profit Sesc (Social Service for Commerce Workers), whose programme focuses on social inclusion and the common good. In addition to sports and cultural offerings, on the 7th floor members can receive free dental treatment, a luxury that is barely affordable for many Brazilians.

The famous Sesc Pompéia, a former barrel factory that opened in 1986 following its conversion by Lina Bo Bardi, stands as a model of success for the sociocultural institution that unites education, leisure, culture and health under one roof. Located just a few steps away from the Theatro Municipal, the glass colossus makes a statement in the densely-built area with its entirely mirrored facade, which at night allows views of its inner workings. “São Paulo is a disaster,” says Pritzker Prize winner Mendes da Rocha. “The metropolis has 20 million inhabitants but no urban planning.” The architects’ thoughtful redesign of the ground floor – as both a foyer and a public passageway that diagonally crosses the corner property – only hints at its history as a department store from the last century.

The structure integrates the urban space around it, its ramps invite visitors to explore inside, and the restaurant and many other areas are open to the general public. Although the current crime situation in São Paulo has caused public space to languish, here it is being deliberately upgraded. “A place with great character and diversity,” says Mmbb partner Marta Moreira. For anyone looking to experience São Paulo’s vibrant life, the building is the right address.

Text: Sandra Hofmeister

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