By Sophia S. Telles
Sometimes a project makes us wonder which impulse has allowed multiple spatial performances with a self-confidence that is barely afraid of using otherwise incompatible formal references. This observation stems from the gentle, so to speak, coexistence between different procedures without ironic mention or humor signaling the recognition that senses collide. The laughs and grimaces of children here seem enough to keep moving forward one of the most interesting unfoldings of modern architecture in Brazil, the interpretation of the non-functional program.
Architects like difficult problems, the most amusing ones. Accommodating one hundred and fifty children between zero and six years, and about forty adults who gives them support, and all this small population apparently squeezed into a narrow plot with high walls and a pale row of houses in an old industrial neighborhood, does not exactly describe a school in the countryside. Neither the project would imagine such a bucolic scenario. The most interesting idea of this program is to strengthen the city, which does not mean to box the children in a severe small industrial shed, enclosed among shut down factories - and what would be the city?
The project decisions are clear, direct, and curious, three structures for three program situations: a waffle slab releases the underground floor for garage and some staff services; a lightweight metal frame transforms the entire ground floor into a covered square for common activities, animated by sunny clippings; and upon this structure, drywalls and folded plates set up enclosures separated by unexpected outdoor passages, which makes the first floor a kind of double elevated street with its terraces overlooking the square.
The passages through open or semi-protected areas actually expose children to sunlight, moisture and overgrown walls, where green leaves frolic here and there on the square,
climbing the outdoor ramps to reach a vegetable garden on the school rooftop. The activity creates ambiances, a live space transformed through usages, remaining visible and in motion most of the time, but everything looks perfectly in place – children draw, adults talk in transparent rooms, one sees the rushing children on the terraces above and the kitchen tasks before the green backdrop. Everyone is concentrated amid the hubbub of a square, a garden, a street. And this is the project. Nothing resembles more everyday life than this gentle and Freudian alternation between appearance and disappearance at the same place – this is the earliest sociability and the beginning of the city.
In the eighties, after opening Lina Bardi´s project, SESC Pompéia boosted an impressive range of services and cultural activities which today transcends the initial goal and reverberates throughout the city. The small school for its employees was designed under the same support and care that made SESC an exemplary institution in the country.
But it was necessary that the extraordinary drawing of usages in a manual scale of popular experience by Lina Bardi and a very specific spatial thinking of the reinforced concrete in the São Paulo School and its open squares as social experience, both eased the tension of the military period to become ordinaries acquisitions of common life, industrial and popular artifacts at the same time. The curious dancing sheds of a kindergarten can now wave a hand to the old factory nearby whilst refreshing the afternoons in the shaded rooms, and kids go to sleep.