Pool City | Option Studio

Option Studio: Strategies to Design Social Housing in Sao Paulo City Downtown
Visiting Professor Angelo Bucci
Spring 2017

The goal of this studio is to explore design strategies for Affordable Housing in Sao Paulo's downtown, where infrastructure abundancy contrasts with scarcity of housing, and on its outskirts, the opposite.

The city has been the result of rapid growth after the 1970’s. The need for immediate infrastructure, such as buildings and transportation spurred massive movements of production which displaced social housing, shanty towns, and suburbs resulted to the outskirts of the city.

With this mass growth, the city became fragmented as infrastructure took over where parks and public space may have grown. City planners have had few commissions in the spontaneous and fast environment. The disparate city is so disconnected, the ‘networks of water supplies, sewage systems, traffic arteries, electricity supplies and refuse collection still display great gaps. In short, São Paulo is a wealthy city with poor urban quality.’ This project re-introduces social housing into downtown São Paulo as a local-infrastructure that manages the city block’s storm water. Instead of connecting to a non-existing network, the contained system is integrated into the housing as a natural cooling system and water reservoir for firefighting. Nestled between two black facades on a small former parking lot, the project reclaims one of many small unused areas in downtown São Paulo.

The project is contains two programs: social housing and community space in the form of SESC Luz. The introduction of social housing is accompanied by the community focus because the SESC provides open access to urban amenities for both residents and non-residents of social housing. With access to programs like swimming, dancing, theater and web-surfing, social differences are reduced. The closeness of the buildings act as a microphone, echoing and projecting the sounds of Pool City into the neighborhood. The housing units are designed to share a common exterior space known as the Sun Room. Although shared, it provides many types of programmatic opportunity for leisure, storage and working. Each unit is also adjacent to one structural core element. These elements house the electrical and water piping, as well as the natural ventilation system from the rain water reservoir. Acting as a heat chimney, synchronized air ducts cool air by pulling it over the water reservoirs before distributing it vertically to the units. Once circulated, the used air continues vertically, pulled by the heat of the sun, and exits the core elements a top the roof deck.

Different from the iconic form of Minah Casa, Minah Vida, the individual units are distilled in order to blur the boundaries of the home and question the stigmatizations that come with social housing. The simplicity of the space and abundance of light and ventilation not only removes the image of social housing, but creates a sense of barbarism. Perhaps poorly understood as a life without many material possessions, barbarism is a spatial strategy that allows for many interpretations beyond that of just domesticity. “This schematic organization of the house opens the domestic space to interpretation, revealing that the house is an artificial construct and there is nothing natural about living within walls.” Pool City aims for a house typology  that is more spatially ambiguous as to integrate more seamlessly within the city, integrate a variety of opportunity within the building,  and integrate within itself as a changing entity