As part of its 40th anniversary celebration, the INDA (National Institute of Steel Distributors – Instituto Nacional dos Distribuidores de Aço) invited FGMF to develop cultural equipment in the East Zone of São Paulo. The ICEMA (Cultural and Educational Institute – Museum of Steel – Instituto Cultural e Educacional – Museu do Aço) includes a full theater for 500 people, space for temporary expositions, professional capacitance rooms and the museum of steel. The initiative is part of the efforts of positioning of the steel chain, emphasizing environmental aspects and reinforcing the social performance with programs together with the surrounding communities.
The building should show the steel in its multiple applications and shapes, in order to become a practical reference of versatility of the material. However, given the relevance of the equipment and the social aspect desired, the architectonic proposal did not start from a solid element: the main generator of the party is the public space. More than a building, we expected the museum to be part of the urban tissue, experienced all the time and by everyone, and not only by those who were able to enter the expository space.
In the 400-meter slender terrain facing a busy expressway, next to a subway station, we liberated the ground floor and made it visual and physically permeable. A dug square, of more controlled access, works as a shelter to the foyer of the theater, to the classrooms, to a café and to the technical spaces of the compound, besides protecting itself from the noise of the avenue. Over this emptiness which symbolizes the mines where the iron ore is extracted from, a huge volume covered with cor-ten steel hovers, suspended by thin rods moved by traction, hung on a simple and thin peripheral structure. Just like a metallic cloud, this great craft is presented in an unusual and organic shape, in contrast with the stiffness and accuracy of the structure that supports it.
Representing infinite shape variations that steel enables, this suspended volume creates a curious element that arouses the desire in transients of entering and discovering its content. The internal space, as the external condition denounces, is an environment of irregular outline and freestanding mezzanines and they are interconnected by ramps. Inside the museum, the irregular format seen from outside becomes a rich space with multiple dimensions, eventual openings made of glass and perforated metal sheet which allows glimpsing the square right under. Gaps and intervals between the mezzanines accommodate the facilities, sculptures, projections and other elements that have no need to be supported by the paving flooring. Besides diversifying the exposition options, the solution makes the touring in the multimedia collection a unique sensorial experience.
The access to the museum is done directly through a footbridge which leaves from the subway, in a metallic lattice derivation that slowly becomes the museum, forming a sort of tunnel. The access occurs, thus, through an elevated foyer that is also reached through the vertical circulation tower. In the other extremity of the museum, there is a flat footbridge over the square towards the theater, where the temporary expositions are directly in contact with the plays and concerts public, pushing for more interaction between the programs and regular visitors of these initially independent functions.
All covered with black steel plate, the theater stands as a stiff monolith and gives the museum the leading role of the scene. At the same time, the structure that supports the museum incorporates a stainless steel mesh that best defines the covered square and protects it from direct sunlight exposure without losing the natural luminosity. The microclimate in the public space is complemented by reflecting pools and trees whose crowns offer themselves to the transients – an open and generous space for users, but protected from the chaos of the expressway that runs alongside. More than a passage, this built emptiness is placed as an alternative of destination, a point of interest in a region that lacks generous and qualified areas for the population.
During the day, the metal sheet makes the volume of the museum look slightly hazy, undefined, as a suggestion of what is there. In the strategic tears on the sheet, where people can have access to the public space, one can see pieces of that element. At night, the opposite happens: illuminated, the museum arises as force in the landscape, creating an imposing landmark, a sculpture that honors not the material of which it is done, but the surrounding population. It is part of the compound, yet, a commercial building which will generate funds for construction and maintenance of the cultural center, besides promoting social activities.