ArchiExpo e-Magazine - #25 – Safety FirstArchiExpo e-Magazine

Safety First

Our special Brazil issue takes us into the heart of the Olympics Games host country to discover some of the best architecture and design. With a focus on safety first, we bring you the story of how Brazilian architects Terra e Tuma redesigned the rotting home of 74-year-old Dona Dalva.

We speak to structural engineers in Brazil who offer ideas on how to render structures safe, stable and secure. Catch our review of the biggest furniture fair ForMobile and design weekend in Brazil. Don’t miss an interview with designer Andrei Speridiao who works on developing innovative networks of people using digital thinking.

Enjoy the variety of Brazilian treats we offer to kickstart a new design & archi year.


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The main challenge here is creativity.

Regarded as a leading authority in Brazil, Yopanan Rebello has written numerous books on structural engineering during more than 40 years in the field. In 1992 he opened São Paulo’s YCON Engenharia studio, where he serves as technical director and teaches a variety of engineering and construction courses. Rebello...

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One of the most celebrated architectural designs this year
Courtesy of Terra e Tuma

What started as a simple request from a son for the reconstruction of his mother’s house in the east of São Paulo, Brazil, turned out to be one of the most celebrated architectural designs this year.

The house, called Vila Matilde, has been the haven of Dona Dalva Borges Ramos, who at 74 is one of the oldest residents in the neighborhood, for many years. Ramos faced a big challenge in 2011, when her 25-year-old house started to show decay. Her son, Marcelo Ramos Borges, explained the situation in 2011 in an interview with Conselho de Arquitetura e Urbanismo do Brasil: “It rained both inside and outside… the fragile walls seemed to be made of sand alone, only with the paint peeling on top.”

The only option for Ramos was to move out and live in an apartment or building with stairs, which was not recommended for somebody of her age. She stayed in her home until 2013, when a piece of ceiling fell on her bed, and that was the point that her son Marcelo had to step up and ask help from design agency Terra e Tuma.

Relying on the assistance of three young design professionals from the firm that includes Danilo Terra, Pedro Tuma and Fernando Sakano, the project on rebuilding the house for Ramos finally began in 2013.

ArchiExpo spoke with Danilo Terra about the house:

brazil architecture Terra e Tuma

Dona Dalva Borges Ramos. Courtesy of Terra e Tuma

ArchiExpo: What did Mr. Borges request for the architectural plan of this structure to ensure his mother’s safety? ​

Danilo Terra: He made no requests. Their main concern was to build a new house, since they were living in imminent danger. The whole structure was about to fall apart. He was able to understand that he needed to count on architectural know-how to provide his mother a safe home. Surprisingly, not everyone has that kind of consciousness—unfortunately [many people think] the work of architects is a benefit available for high-class individuals.

ArchiExpo: What safety features did you include?

Danilo Terra: We concentrated on developing a comfortable and healthy environment that would be fitting for Mrs. Ramos and her son. The project has been designed to offer good natural lighting and nice fresh air circulation that can maintain the house cool on the hot days of Brazil, while being cozy in wintertime.

Terra e Tuma

“Good natural lighting.” Courtesy of Terra e Tuma

The architects designed a green courtyard at the center of the house that provides light and ventilation. It also serves as an extension of the kitchen and laundry. A vegetable garden grows on top of the living room’s concrete slab ceiling, and can be covered later to accommodate future demands of the family.

ArchiExpo: What are your own thoughts behind designing a home for elderly citizens?

Danilo Terra: Vila Matilde House was not designed as a home for the elderly. Terra e Tuma does not believe in ready-made recipes or “tricks” that can create a standard that will be fit to a project “type.” The Vila Matilde House was designed to be the home of Mrs. Ramos and her son and only that. Each project that we embrace will always be treated with this uniqueness.

ArchiExpo: Did you run into construction challenges?

Danilo Terra: Timing was our biggest challenge, since we [had to] tear down and rebuild a house in the shortest possible period of time. We also had the responsibility of designing a house that would respond to this family’s needs, making the most of a small area. The old house was built too close to the neighbors’ houses, which demanded extra care when taking down the compromised building. All of that while keeping budget in mind, we are constantly committed to generating no extra costs for our clients.

Terra e Tuma took four months to carefully demolish the house, execute the foundation and reinforce retaining walls which supported neighbouring buildings. Six months following the start of masonry work, the house was complete. They chose to build load-bearing walls using concrete masonry blocks, making it possible to construct a new house quickly and cheaply.

ArchiExpo: Are you in collaboration with local organizations to construct housing for the elderly?

Danilo Terra: We are always open to new projects, although we are not currently working with any party to develop housing for the elderly. Terra e Tuma has joined forces with Diadema City government in São Paulo state and we are working in a housing project for low-income individuals, the Unicoop project.

Project Credits:

Architecture: Terra e Tuma Arquitetos Associados

Project team: Danilo Terra, Pedro Tuma, Juliana Assali

Construction: Valdionor Andrade de Carvalho and team

Structure: Megalos Engenharia

Landscaping: Gabriella Ornaghi Arquitetura da Paisagem

Terra e Tuma

Courtesy of Terra e Tuma


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  • Courtesy of Santiago Calatrava

    Occupying its own dock on the sweeping Guanabara Bay, Rio de Janeiro’s new Museum of Tomorrow—opened in December—makes a bold statement in both name and design.

    It was envisioned by Santiago Calatrava, who told ArchiExpo he intended to create a building that “interacts with the very special relationship the city has with its natural surroundings, the sea and the mountains.”

    The Calatrava Signature

    rio museum Santiago Calatrava archiexo emag

    Rio’s floating museum by Santiago Calatrava. Courtesy of the architect.

    The long, slender museum is arguably as striking as the beautiful seascape panoramas that have made Rio an iconic destination—but in a completely different way. In a subtle variation of his signature curved construction style, Calatrava uses straight lines and grids to form smoother shapes, whose arcs and bends provide a delicate yet potent contrast.

    The architect clearly wanted to play with the observer’s sense of perspective: The museum can look like several completely different buildings, depending on your viewing angle—perhaps a futuristic rocket launch pad, or a sci-fi spaceship.

    Inside and Out

    A network of cycle paths and public gardens with 15,000 newly planted trees surround the building; its height was limited to 18m above pier level due to the nearby São Bento monastery, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

    rio museum Santiago Calatrava archiexo emag

    Rio’s floating museum by Santiago Calatrava. Courtesy of the architect.

    Inside, 5,000 square meters of exhibition space molded from concrete are colored in the same brilliant white as Calatrava’s imposing metal exterior, which also boasts huge windows that capitalize on the South American sun.

    Another feature that takes advantage of Rio’s many daylight hours is a cantilevered roof with “fins” of photovoltaic solar panels, arranged in contours which move to follow the sun, effectively bringing the building to life while generating electricity.

    Striking aesthetics also combine with sustainability in a vast reflective pool, intended to create a sensation from afar that the museum itself is floating.

    The Pool up Close

    Six pumps pull cold water from deep in the bay, filling the pool and feeding an elaborate air conditioning setup. The water is used to exchange heat with a cooling system, reducing power consumption and avoiding the wastage of drinking water in cooling towers—a measure projected to save 9.6 million liters per year.

    rio museum Santiago Calatrava archiexo emag

    Rio’s floating museum by Santiago Calatrava. Courtesy of the architect.

    As a symbolic gesture of what Calatrava calls “the concept of ecology as an architectural element,” water is returned to the bay in a cleaner state after being pumped through cooling pipes. His firm hopes the building will be recognized with a platinum LEED certification for energy efficiency.

    In a museum featuring interactive installations and exhibitions designed to make people think about the passage of time in our world, the emphasis on environmentally conscious architecture gains even higher resonance.

    rio museum Santiago Calatrava archiexo emag

    Rio’s floating museum by Santiago Calatrava. Courtesy of the architect.

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    Oscar Niemeyer’s futuristic concrete swoops and curves set a distinct mood back in the ’50s, when, in 1956, the president moved from Rio de Janeiro, founded by colonial rulers, to the new capital, Brasilia. With around 600 buildings completed by the time he died in 2012 at age 104, the country is renowned for its elegantly curved concrete buildings.

    “I am not attracted to straight angles or to the straight line, hard and inflexible, created by man,” he wrote in 1996. “I am attracted to free-flowing, sensual curves. The curves that I find in the mountains of my country, in the sinuousness of its rivers, in the waves of the ocean, and on the body of the beloved woman. Curves make up the entire universe, the curved universe of Einstein.”

    The present generation of architects, however, has turned away from Niemeyer’s exuberant concrete curves to reveal a new vision of the architectural future. Check out the slider below to get some of this year’s latest concrete constructions in Brazil.

    Read more on Brazilian architecture in “Dancing with Concrete” by Dorothea Sundergeld.

    A concrete residence in the foothills of the Sierra da Moeda mountain range by architect firm Vazio:

    Architects office Vazio

    Studio Colnaghi Arquitetura completed a house in Xangrilá, Brazil, featuring a concrete-framed games room:

    Concrete residence in the state of São Paulo by RMAA:


    BN House, by local studio Metro, makes the most of the warm Brazilian climate:

    BN house by Metro

    BN house by Metro

    Windowless walls, light-filled galleries and a plant-lined gully (Espaço Cultural Porto Seguroto by São Paulo Arquitetura):

    Espaco Cultural by São Paulo Arquitetura

    Espaco Cultural by São Paulo Arquitetura


    Ana Luiza Daltro

    A native of São Paulo, Ana Luiza Daltro is a former economics and business reporter from VEJA magazine who currently writes for three e-magazines within VirtualExpo group.

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    Frederick Bernas

    Frederick Bernas is a journalist, filmmaker and photographer living in Latin America.

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    Erin Tallman

    American artist Erin Tallman is a journalist for various online publications and is the Editor in Chief of ArchiExpo e-magazine. She has published three books, including her first novel.

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    Vanessa Liwanag

    Vanessa Liwanag, is an MBA alumni of the prestigious Mod’Art International in Paris and founder of Creative Talents Worldwide.

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    Hilary Edesess

    Hilary Edesess is a freelance journalist based in Marseille, France. She blogs about culture, art and urban design.

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    Erin Gigl

    Erin Gigl is a freelance design and travel writer, editor and artist.

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