Brazil has a tradition of aesthetic functionalism, where form follows beauty, inspired by Oscar Niemayer, of experimental buildings and a utopian design philosophy, and a belief that architecture can change society to reflect values of liberty, unity and independence.
The Brazillian architect Ruy Ohtake has been working with the community in the favela of Heliópolis, São Paulo, Brazil since 2003. The intial project was a coordinated street colour scheme to unite an irregular street facade of characteristic red brick structuress. Following this the UNAS Heliópolis, a neighborhood residents association, participated with Ohtake on projects for a library, a recreational centre, and a housing project.
Ohtake has designed the Conjunto Habitacional Heliópolis (Heliopolis Housing Project) for the largest slum in Sao Paulo, covering a million square metres, as part of Ohtake Urban Plan initiated by Sehab – Secretaria da Habitação (Department of Housing) in August 2010. The project plans to improve urban living and leisure spaces, educational and health facilities, and provide housing for about 70,000 people in 18,080 households.
The first stage of Ohtake’s design for the Residential Heliópolis, has created eleven 5-storey circular towers or rotundas known as ‘redondinhos’ (little round ones). Each building has 18 apartments with access via a central service stair: four 49 sq.metre 2-bedroomed apartments per floor with a curved external width of 6.50-metres, with two apartments on the ground floor for the disabled. On the ground floor, there is an open recreation area for the tenants Completed in late 2011, the first occupants moved from the most marginal sites in the favela. The final project will develop 542 new apartments in 29 ‘redondinhos’ at a cost per unit of between $60,000 and $70,000, comparable to building costs for traditional social housing.
Ohtake has a modernist’s passion for improving society and was encouraged by community participation in the projects. Meetings with the residents in 2009 empowered them to discuss the density of the final design and the allocation of space. “They regained their civic sense not by any concept handed to them by an architect, but by action, from results that they achieved while making their own environment more beautiful.” Ohtake believes that beauty has the power to change the way we feel, and that aesthetics can unite and inspire rich and poor to move forward collectively.
Other architects developing new types of housing for the Conjunto Habitacional Heliópolis are Hector Vigliecca, and Mario Biselli & Artur Katchborian; Piratininga Arquitetos Associados are developing the Comandante Taylor district with 23 buildings and 421 apartments under construction.
Images of Ruy Ohtake projects: www.panoramio.com/group/30012