How to intervene in a time-honored work of modern Brazilian architecture? That is the question pervading all decisions made in the design of these young architects from Rio de Janeiro, when facing the challenge of rethinking the access dynamic to Caledônia building (1948-54), by Lucio Costa.
By implementing Le Corbusier’s cannon of the pilotis, the complex of buildings in front of Parque Guinle is rooted in a total continuity rapport among its ground floor, the green area in front of it, and the urban fabric in its surroundings. Defined solely by the projection of the building on the ground, Caledônia’s ground floor is a public open space, without control barriers, where passersby are free to enter and wander.
Yet, after a burglary took place in a neighboring building, the access to the area was enclosed, in 1980. Recently, this hermetic reception room, completely foreign to the original project, was demolished. Thereby, Gru.a’s project could restore the previous permeability of the pilotis, subtly addressing the current demand for safety.
The project was not reconstituted exactly as it used to be, but the spaciousness of the pilotis is dilated until the elevator door, mediating it with a light structure that delimits as little room as possible for the enclosed space. It is made possible due to the Portuguese pavement extension towards the diaphanous inner space, and the removal of the plasterboard ceiling, granting continuity to the pilotis’ ceiling and detaching it from the contemporary structure.
Both planes, together, clearly distinguish the structural components from the fencing elements. This tectonic approach is fitted with a primary aluminum structure with anodized stainless steel, granting it the durability required for the humid weather of Rio de Janeiro and the slenderness of the profiles able to support the glass facade.
While the plane of the new structure, perpendicular to the facade, is characterized by its literal transparency, the plane parallel to the longitudinal axis of the building is fitted with a solution of horizontal wooden brise-soleils, paying clear homage to the hollow ceramic tiles (cobogós) and to the industrial parts that characterize Caledônia’s front facade. Cumaru lumber profiles, with three vertical aluminum structures, help reconstitute the diffuse permeability once lost, somehow diluting the sealing function attributed to the intervention.
The strength of the response to the contemporary problem rests in the lightness of the materials and in its subtle detailing, combining the modern canon of private and public space with deep understanding of the history behind the area. Young architects seek to unravel Lucio Costa’s architectural design rationale, and thus, an extremely rare and positive dialogue takes place between different generations of architects from Rio de Janeiro.