Five years of construction, and there it is, finally. Unexpected, hybrid, intriguing. Starting with the streetfront concealed from prying eyes by the density of a texture in palm fiber, a perfect home for wild parrots, reinventing the use of the Piaçava usually employed to cover beach kiosks.
This is the first house built from scratch by Fernando & Humberto Campana, the famous designers who have done showrooms, interiors of the restaurant-cafe of the Theatro Municipal of São Paulo, as well as hotels.
Materic experimentation in a creative key is the signature of their truly atypical design, famous around the world. Who can forget the Banquete armchair covered with stuffed animals, or the Favela chair made with scraps of wood, reminders of Brazilian shantytowns?
The brothers, however, had never designed a house before. The location is the prestigious Jardins zone of São Paulo, for a domestic landscape with a high profile and lots of character, reflecting the lifestyle of a professional couple at the helm of companies known all over the world, Stefano Zunino and Solange Ricoy, respectively from Italy and Argentina, who live here with their children.
“We were given total freedom to explore, based on a long-term relationship of work and friendship,” Fernando & Humberto explain, “and this helped us to approach the leap of scale, from object to architecture, while respecting the paradigms of reference of our work, which combines the use of local materials and forgotten crafts traditions.
Of course objects are less connected with the context and permit remodeling, while architecture is immanent and requires careful study of the setting in which it is placed. Our clients wanted the streetfront to be closed, for more privacy, with more openness at the back, for a dialogue with the internal garden, the permeability of transparency and light.
So we have put the introverted side of the rectangular concrete box, 600 square meters in all, towards the north, using palm fibers (from northeastern Brazil) held in place by wooden planks, supported by aluminium grilles.”
This vernacular technique enabled them to make an insulating and waterproof surface that also brings thermal comfort on hot summer days, attenuating the heat as well as the noise from the street, while a wall of Mandacaru forms another filter, composed of giant flowering cacti with a velvety fragrance.
The extroverted facade on the garden has full-height glazing, paced by continuous walkways and terraces: indoors and outdoors blend in a game of perspectives and focal points, softening the sense of limits and extending the living space outside, making it possible to alternate moments of relaxation in nature with other outdoor activities.
Custom furnishings made with metal wire seem to have grown up spontaneously in the landscape; together with mango trees, pitanga and erythrina plants. “We wanted to achieve a balance,” the designers say, “through an architectural development that would break down the traditional boundaries, opening up to an intense relationship with the natural environment.
Also in the outdoor walls, painted green and covered by climbing plants. The idea was to give form to a neutral, white, fluid volume, which in the orthogonal linear design of a long, narrow layout, just 14 meters wide, would thrive on space and light. As Le Corbusier and Oscar Niemeyer have taught.”
In the interiors the ordering element of the project is a bookcase – another unexpected guest – that combines with the internal staircase connecting all four levels of the house, acting as a spine, not just as a container for objects and books.
Its wooden structure entirely covered in handcrafted cowhide provides a sort of fragmented organic guard-rail for the ascent, all the way to the dome of light from the central skylight, while the oversized mirror in the form of a cloud (another outstanding feature) on the wall in the living area reflects and amplifies the greenery outside.
“The bookcase was a specific request of the clients, who have about 1000 books,” say the Campana brothers. “There were various study phases prior to construction, and we redesigned it at least seven times. The choice of the other pieces was less complex, mixing our furniture collected over time by the clients with selected items of Italian design.”
The layout provides spaces for cars and staff on ground level; a large living area and kitchen, communicating with the terrace and the garden, on the ground floor; the bedrooms for the children and guests on the first, opening to a deep concrete loggia along the entire rear facade; and the master suite in the attic, with salvaged wood floors (from a fazenda in Londrina), a fireplace suspended from the ceiling that can rotate by 360° to spread warmth in any direction, and its own terrace, offering a view of the tropical trees in the surroundings.
Color is also a key element of any tropical design, and here the colors of the furnishings are in tune with those of the paintings and various surfaces, like the kitchen floor in red-orange quartz, or those of the bathrooms (one in copper tones, one in blue, one in scarlet), reinforcing the Brazilian spirit of the house. And its organic mood, the expression of timeless habitat quality.
Photos by Leonardo Finotti/courtesy Estudio Campana – Text by Antonella Boisi