As one of the world’s most populated cities, São Paulo has more than its fair share of high-rise architecture and is home to many of Brazil’s tallest skyscrapers. Just under 10-km west of the central metropolis is the colourful, lively and cultural bohemian district of Vila Madelena, where local architect Triptyque has completed Arapiraca – a tall, residential complex comprising nine tower blocks, one of which is reserved for the lift and stairs.

The building’s exterior aesthetic is a literal incarnation of the proverbial ‘tale of two cities’. Facing outwards, towards the Brazilian skyline, is a façade of rough, grey concrete, which matches the rugged appearance of the old buildings in the surrounding area. The surfaces are brutalist, dark and matte. In complete contrast, the inward-facing elevations are clad in small, shiny, blue and white tiles. Proposed to reference the Portuguese azulejos ceramics – a tribute to the historical importance of the Portuguese community who were the first immigrants to occupy the area – the design’s colours are also an acknowledgement of the work of Brazilian artist Athos Bulcão.

The arrangement of the eight residential towers puts the comfort of the inhabitants in first priority, with the units scattered haphazardly in order to maximise the benefits from the path of the sun, optimise natural ventilation and increase views. The apartments appear to rise up from a mass of vegetation, described by the architect as ‘an atmosphere of urban forest under the building’. In order to further promote the ambience of a tropical microclimate, circulation between the one part of the building and another is accessed by way of external balconies that hang over the plant life.

Triptyque partner Greg Bousquet explains the reason behind the screens that clad the walkways, shielding the residents from the elements: ‘We are living in a tropical country. In summer, it does not rain; tonnes of water literally falls from the sky. It was very difficult to create an open relationship with the external ambience but we compromised with the perforated metal “curtains” that protect the walkways from the water.’

Plan – Level 0

Plan – Level 5
Location Rua Arapiraca 22, São Paulo, Brazil