Location: Sao Paulo, Brazil

Dates: 2009 -2014 (estimated)

Client: SEHAB, City of Sao Paulo Housing Authority

Architect: Urban Think Tank - Alfredo Brillembourg, Hubert Klumpner

Project Architect(s): Michael Contento, Lindsey Sherman

Project Team: Maria Augusta Bueno, Carlos Guimaraes, Carolina Montilla


Acoustic Engineer: Dr. Eckard Mommertz, Mueller-BBM International GmbH

Sustainability Engineer: Thomas Auer, Daniel Pianka, Transsolar

Water Engineer: Eric Rothstein, Ian Lipsky, eDesign Dynamics

Structural Engineer: Holger Techen, Imagine Structure

Envelope Engineer: Marcel Bilow, Imagine Envelope


In the Grotao Community Center and Park, our priority is equipping this peripheral neighborhood with infrastructure, water, sewage networks, lighting, services, and public space. The proposed urban model aims to translate a society’s need for equal access to housing, employment, technology, services, education, and resources—fundamental rights for all city dwellers—into spatial solutions. Despite its central and urban location, the area of Grotao is connected with only one road to the larger circulation systems of Sao Paulo, effectively separating it from the formal city. Within this separated zone, increased erosion and dangerous mudslides have characterized the site as one of many low-access and high-risk zones.  As a result, the unfortunate but necessary removal of several damaged housing units has created a void in the otherwise dense fabric.


The new landscape generates the opportunity to transform the vacated space into a productive zone and public space through social design, a process of analyzing the conditions of rapid growth and improving marginalized settlements through social infrastructure. In addition to stabilizing the precarious ground and eliminating erosion, the terraced landscape transforms Grotão into a “natural arena” that encourages diverse community participation.


The lower zone of the site contains the music school prototype, which vertically stacks several diverse programs to maximize site potential. These include the bus station/transportation infrastructure, soccer pitch, community center, and the music school, which contains classrooms, practice rooms, recording studios, and performance halls. This new facility, essentially a musical education factory, is a vital catalyst in this area, expanding music programs into the favelas while beginning to form a new network that serves the youth from all levels of society. Commercial spaces are also introduced on the first level as an economic vehicle that activates the street level.


The upper zone contains new replacement housing for those displaced from high-risk zones. The building maintains both physical and visual connections within the area through a large, open level that works as a continuation of the terrace system.

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ToolBox A-Z
Add Infrastructure Bio Resources Capture Unused Space Distribute Freely Education Fabric Go Vertical! Health Informal Urbanism Juxtaposition Kit of Parts Local Growth Morphology Networks Operate Pre-Fabricate Quality Reverse Engineer Social Density Transportation Utopian Real Visualize Social Factors Waste Xanadu Youth Culture Z-Axis