This small entrance space in urban Brazil makes an impact
When Eliane Revestimentos acquired a former clinic in São Paulo, Brazil, with the intention of turning it into an events venue, designer Alex Hanazaki was commissioned to turn the 450m² forecourt into a garden with an appropriate sense of arrival.
“I got the brief in 2015 and the space had to be completed by 2016, so time was tight,” he says. “I was asked to create a contemplative space, where visitors could feel they were in the middle of an oasis, despite being in the centre of one of the largest metropolises in the world. I wanted them to interact with the garden through its textures, sounds and the experiences it offers, including the stepping stones that invite them to enter the space.”
There were many challenges associated with working in such a limited area, and meeting the client’s requirement to minimise environmental impact through the use of low-maintenance plants and low water consumption. The client is a ceramic manufacturer, so porcelain was used in innovative ways.
“We created a whole ceramic collection especially for this space, including porcelain floor tiles with a self-cleaning technology that makes them a low maintenance and environmental alternative to increasingly scarce natural stone.” Easier to maintain, it also helps to purify air and, when used indoors, inhibits the proliferation of bacteria. “We also created beautiful black pebbles from ceramic waste, using a process specially developed for this project, which rest underwater in the extensive reflective pool at the heart of the garden.”
The planting celebrates Brazil’s native flora, including Pau Brasil (Caesalpinia echinata), the tree after which the nation is named. “Many Brazilians don’t make that connection between the name of their country and this symbolic tree, which is practically extinct in the wild,” says Hanazaki.
“We made a point of using only native plants, grown in local nurseries, because they are adapted to the local climate and require little water – although the mature specimens we planted did require special transportation logistics and planting care. As well as creating a garden with its own aesthetic integrity, we wanted to encourage visitors to use these Brazilian natives themselves.”
To ensure the garden contrasts with São Paulo’s frenetic, heavily urbanised atmosphere, visitors enter through a pergola-screen tunnel, immediately insulating them from the city. On one side, a green wall of tropical plants absorbs noise and heat; on the other, a slatted screen filters sunlight, ventilates the space and provides glimpses of the garden beyond.
“This brise-soleil produces effects of both transparency and enclosure and the slats are organised so the garden can be glimpsed but not seen entirely,” says Hanazaki. “The tunnel creates a sense of mystery and expectation.”
The garden is an exercise in balancing elements. There are porcelain-tiled shady benches and a large reflective pool studded with stepping stones, allowing visitors to cross the water to a series of garden ‘islands’. A fireplace adds drama at night.