Architects: Epigram + Forte, Gimenes & Marcondes Ferraz Arquitetos
Location: Santo André, SP, Brazil
Directors in Charge: Marcelo Bicudo, Daniel Lifschitz, Fernando Forte, Lourenço Gimenes, Rodrigo Marcondes Ferraz
Collaborators: Tatiana Machado, Ana Paula Barbosa (coordination); Naya Adam, Juliana Nohara, Paola Bianchi (architects); Flavio Faggion, Alexandre Martins (trainee)
Construction: BR Construções
Project Area: 350 sqm
Project Year: 2009-2010
Photographs: Fran Parente
When we first began the Natura House Santo André project, we came from the previous experience of designing five Nature Houses in São Paulo (Rua Vergueiro, Av. Santo Amaro, Itaquera, Osasco and Guarulhos). These places are dedicated to the sales force of the biggest comestic company in Brazil, which has approximately one million direct sales consultants.
With a 20% growth on the number of consultats since 2009, the company’s intention is to create a place that enables the direct interaction with these people. Places where monthly reunions occur for new products release, with a busy schedule of trainings and speechs for the consultants, besides being always open to general public. As it is not a showroom or store (the products are not commercialized in theses spaces), these buildings were denominated Natura Houses; the idea is that here the consultants may be sheltered, they may feel at home. These houses are an iniciative aiming to instruct and motivate the consultants, who will have the opportunity to try and test the products that they would usually sell only through catalog. Besides, one of the Natura brand’s fundaments is to encourage the relation between people. More than an auditory and showroom, the concept is to create a pleasent space that people may visit, where they can gather and share experience willingly.
Much bigger than this new House, the previous ones where restored buildings and shared a similar program: auditory for sales force training; product exhibition and experimentation area; living and coffee area and administrative area.
However, the companies involved had to spend great efforts on these restored buildings – not only Epigram and FGMF, partners on the project, but Natura itself as well. After all, restoring five different buildings proved to be an arduous task, expensive and not very efficient.
Due to Natura’s interest to implement Houses all over Brazil, we suggested the company’s commercial innovation team an alternative strategy: to build smaller and prefab Houses, in a way to optimize the project, keep construction expenses under control and accelerate implementation. This would also be a better way to fullfill, through a certified project, the arguments of environmental responsibility required by the client. Illustrating this possibility, we introduced Natura to the project developed by FGMF for the finals of the international competition Living Steel in 2008, where we proposed a metalic construction with high environmental performance, with flexibility to adapt at all seasons.
Large spaces, in spite of being smaller. Natural light and contact with the garden. Dry and efficient building. Environmental certification. The possibility to replicate and custom according to local condition. An object defined by its empty spaces and by the relation between interior and exterior. These concepts constituted the Santo André project, conceived and built as pilot to future replicas. As an industrialized object, after the prototype construction an analysis on the House’s whole design, construction and operation process will be made in order to adjust its program to the usual detailment before building any new unit.
The building sit, typical of brizilian’s cities central areas determined by Natura, was researched and chosen: a lot measuring 250m2 (273yards2), 10m2 (11yards2) front, which became our minimum measure for a terrain. Upon it, a metallic frame, lengthwise disposed, determines the construction, creating a major setback open to the city as a garden.
This frame may as well be installed in different ways at different lots: it can be mirrored if convenient to visibility or access, its front part can be inverted if the lot is too large or if it is placed on a corner lot, etc. Fundamentally, the function of this frame is to articulate other elements of the set, creating a heterogeneuos object, which defines constructed areas with diverse qualities, both external and internal.
Attached to the frame, a great box arranges the main program: two flexible auditories, where the consultants’ reunions and frequent trainings take place. More closed, it enables the correct handling of illumination. It appears as a big suspended box, with cantilevers that create contrast between it and the structure. At the back of the lot, functions that are naturally private are arrenged in another box, a vertical one: restrooms, storage, kitchen and administration are part of this block.
From the street, it is possible to see the setback building through the garden, giving it perspective. The structure is pronnounced by a sheer front portion, which outlines the vegetation with white beams and shading elements. Right next to it, the massive auditory box surpassess the limits of the frame and arises as the set’s main element. Under the auditory’s weight, a ground floor flows, not to find any clear boundary between indoors and outdoors at the exhibition area.
The auditory side cantilever offers a covered passway for visitors who may, finnaly, enter the brand products’ exhibition and experimentation area. In here, the construction seems to fade, allowing just the products and the surrounding garden to be seen by the visitor. It is only after walking by the products that one may access the glass door that takes us to a main atrium.
Surprisingly, this is an empty, open, half-covered, undefined space. At the same time, it is an element filled with possibilities, where all vertical and horizontal moviment will take place in the House. It is also a gathering and living area amidst the green area, where coffee area has a strategic position, attached to the stairs structure. Ascending these stairs, one may reach the auditories and, crossing the footbridge, administration.
It is, actually, a very simple object, where the feature of legible objects attached to the continuous and ubiquous structure favors the identification of the program, which transcends tradicional limits between construction and the nature surrounding it. That’s how we thought Natura brand should present itself: simple, precise and in direct contact with nature.
Our concern about spatial quality and fluidity, merging limits and arrengement of functions does not summarize all the concenrs within this project. Besides a meticulous brand strategy applied to visual communication and exhibition area, the constructive issues took great efforts.
In order to attend the requisition for speed of construction and control of process, the work was idealized to be obsessively dry, all set, reducing the chance of errors and need for remakes. The concern about reducing waste, using recycled or recycable material is also plainly fullfilled by this option.
Only the preliminary work on terrain and foundations were executed by traditional methods. On sequencial steps, every component and element came to the building site divided and then were assembled: metallic structure, plaster wallboards, cementitious boards, frames and complementary finishings. This matter was one of the highlights on the project for environmental certification attainment AQUA (High Environmental Quality), granted by Fundação Vanzolini/POLI-USP. Created after the french seal HQE, AQUA is the first seal fully adapted to brazilian reality, and member of the Sustainable Building Alliance, which congregates international greatest certifications. The Natura House Santo André project is the first commercial project certified by AQUA in Brazil.
The are other environmental strategies that must be mentioned: From the caution on the implementation of the House, avoiding negative impact on neighbors and offering a generous garden to the city, to the choice for certified material with easy maintenance, the building is filled with interesting solutions. Most of them were thought while still on project, present since the first strokes, such as the concern for natural light, sunlight control and the hight permeability of the terrain. Or else, the opening system which permits crossed ventilation on days when air coditioning is not essential. Or, still an example, the option for material that reduce future maintenance, such as painted alumimnium external coating, which demands only washing, and external floor made with recycled material. The matter is extended to the manegement of water and energy; hygro-thermal, acoustic, visual and olfative comfort; garden manegement and else.
Accondingly to the requirement that the house is adjustable to different regions of Brazil, kits of elements were conceived, which may be attached to the House’s structure as needed due to insolation and ventilation variations of each terrain. Different kinds of brise-soleil, arbors and frames that may compose a singular performance and aspect design for each location. These kits also take in account typical material and the disponibility of local industry, in a way to also build a cultural connection and to stablish more organic relation with each scenario.