MMBB Arquitetos and Brasil Arquitetura: Regenerating Downtown São Paulo

Marta Moreira and Francisco Fanucci discuss recent cultural projects.

May 20, 2021
6:00 p.m.

Left: MMBB Arquitetos + Paulo Mendes da Rocha | SESC 24 de Maio, São Paulo, 2017. Credit: Nelson Kon. Right: Brasil Arquitetura | Praça das Artes, São Paulo, 2012. Credit: Nelson Kon

Current Work is a lecture series featuring leading figures in the worlds of architecture, urbanism, design, and art.

The spring 2021 Current Work series, titled “Reckoning, Reclamation, and Regeneration,” examines some of the inherited histories, conventions, fabrics, and systems—often taken for granted—that constitute and shape the built environment. How might we reconsider the ways we engage with and construct the places that surround us? Speakers will address issues including transforming architectural pedagogy; protecting threatened historic sites; conserving resources by adapting existing buildings and reusing materials; and reimagining and regenerating places scarred by racism, neglect, and environmental emergencies.

This talk will focus on a pair of cultural projects in the historic center of São Paulo, Brazil, that brought new services, programs, and public spaces to an area characterized by density, diversity, and neglect. Projects such as SESC 24 de Maio and Praça das Artes offer insight into how architects can combine placemaking, historic preservation, and adaptive reuse to regenerate urban spaces.

SESC 24 de Maio (MMBB Arquitetos and Paulo Mendes da Rocha, 2017), adapts a department store building into a multipurpose facility for the nonprofit SESC (Social Service of Commerce). Offering a wide range of services for members, as well as a number of programs and spaces that are free of charge and open to the general public, SESC 24 de Maio comprises exhibition space, a library, an auditorium, a dental clinic, a daycare center, a sports hall, a cafeteria, and a rooftop swimming pool. The building is connected to the street by an open ground level that serves as a gallery and invites passersby to move through a sequence of ramps leading to several open spaces, or “elevated squares,” within the building, creating a new relationship with its surroundings.  

A few blocks away, Praça das Artes (Brasil Arquitetura, 2012), which translates to Arts Square, transforms a city block through the restoration and expansion of the Drama and Music Conservatory of São Paulo. The new facility houses the city ballet, symphony, choir, and other performing arts organizations, as well as a concert hall, a restaurant, and gallery space. The complex, made of new concrete structures surrounding the historic building, takes advantage of underutilized urban voids to provide pedestrian connections between streets and create public spaces that revitalize the city’s urban life.

Marta Moreira is cofounding partner of São Paulo-based MMBB Arquitetos. She leads the firm, which was founded in 1991, alongside partners Milton Braga and Maria João. In addition to the development of public and institutional building, infrastructural, and urban planning projects, MMBB is committed to cultural and academic activities, including the organization of exhibitions, teaching, and research. The firm was awarded the 2013 prize of the São Paulo Art Critics Association and a 2014 prize at the IX Ibero-American Architecture and Urbanism Biennial in Rosario, Argentina, for the Jardim Edite social housing project. Most recently, MMBB won a competition to design the Brazilian Pavilion for the 2020 Expo Dubai. SESC 24 de Maio was a 2018 finalist for the Mies Crown Hall Americas Prize.

Moreira graduated from the School of Architecture and Urbanism at the University of São Paulo (FAUUSP) in 1987. She has been a professor of architecture at Escola da Cidade since 2001.

Francisco Fanucci is cofounding partner of São Paulo-based Brasil Arquitetura alongside Marcelo Ferraz. Founded in 1979, the firm works on cultural, institutional, historic preservation, and residential projects across Brazil. The firm was awarded the 2018 prize of the São Paulo Art Critics Association and selected to exhibit its Terreiro Òsùmàrè project in the Brazilian Pavilion at the 16th Venice Architecture Biennale. Praça das Artes was a 2014 finalist for the Mies Crown Hall Americas Prize. 

Fanucci graduated from the School of Architecture and Urbanism at the University of São Paulo (FAUUSP) in 1977. He has been a professor of architecture at Escola da Cidade since its founding in 2001. 

The presentations will be followed by a conversation and Q&A moderated by architect and curator Sol Camacho, founder of São Paulo- and Mexico City-based RADDAR and cultural director of Instituto Bardi/Casa de Vidro.

This event is organized by The Architectural League of New York and co-presented with The Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture of The Cooper Union.


This program is supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council and the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.