Flavio Castro: Planalto House

A domestic architecture in a suburb of São Paulo, Brazil, creates an intersection between private and public spaces and activities.

The Planalto Paulista neighbourhood lies south of the centre of São Paulo, Brazil’s economic capital, and is where all its social contradictions intersect and, quite reluctantly, coexist. Flanking Avenida Indianopólis, the link between Congonhas Airport and the city centre that skirts Ibirapuera Park, this zone is the Brazilian middle-class dream. Constructed on a plateau approximately 800 metres above sea level in the 1950s, it is divided into square plots shaded by wide tree-lined avenues.
Flavio Castro
Top: light cones on the roof of the Planalto House. Above: the inner courtyard (photos by Nelson Kon)
This is the suburb where Flavio Castro built a house for a family of four (a couple with two children) on a rectangular 800-square-metre site, accepting the far from easy challenge of creating a sequence of spaces and functions that could accommodate the private and social life of a family unit that enjoys meeting and interacting with others. In so doing, Castro also incorporated another contradiction of Brazilian society – the great sense of insecurity felt constantly by the people of this metropolis. As a result, and as often seen in Brazil, the Planalto House is closed off from the surrounding neighbourhood by a high wall and screens its living space in an L shape, with rooms that seem hybrid and not entirely domestic.
Flavio Castro
The living room leads on from the kitchen and garden (photo by Nelson Kon)

This project treads the fine line between the concepts of social and private, and interprets the available terrain as if it were an integral part of the building. The architecture draws no precise boundaries between interior and exterior, a principle respected by Castro in every detail: most of the windows run from floor to ceiling; the bedrooms in the sleeping zone are screened by large wooden panels, hinged in the middle to permit a glimpse of the city in the distance; the ground-floor living room overlooks the garden through four sliding windows; and the kitchen, with no doors/windows, is entirely open on the exterior, turning the garden into another room of the house.

The catalyst for the design was the superimposition of two perpendicular volumes, two entities that Castro has interpreted as autonomous – the living spaces are on the ground floor while the more private and reserved sleeping ones are lined up on the first floor.

Flavio Castro
The staircase is fashioned with concrete, left in its natural state (photo Nelson Kon). Above: the video was filmed by Pedro Kok
The fact that they are two independent entities is underscored by a red-painted metal beam running the length of the slab of the block set parallel to the street. On both inside and out, this clearly marks the separation between the two prisms or, as the architects say, “the sense of autonomy between the two volumes.”
Flavio Castro
The first-floor corridor overlooks the dual-height living room (photo by Nelson Kon)
This feature also highlights the function of the building’s load-bearing structure: a mixed system of metal beams and columns, and 20 cm-thick reinforced concrete slabs. The selected materials – concrete, glass, steel and wood – are tasked with underlining the colour combinations, the surface textures, the opacity and the transparency. They remain themselves, with no surface finishes.
Flavio Castro
The projecting mass contains the sleeping quarters (photo by Nelson Kon)
Born in São Paulo in 1983 and of Italian-Brazilian nationality, Flavio Castro graduated from FAU/Mack in his home city in 2005 and then specialised at UPC in Barcelona in 2009 while working for several architectural offices – MAB arquitectos, Arteks Arquitectura, Hidalgo & Hartmann and MMBB – before opening his own São Paulo practice in 2006.
Flavio Castro
The garden wall features a large cut and a heavy slab acts as a garden table (photo by Nelson Kon)

House, São Paulo, Brazil
Architect, construction supervision, landscape design:

Flavio Castro
Design team:
Jennifer Andrade and Claudia Reis
Structural and plant engineering:
Marcos and Eliana Stuart
Built area:
800 square metres (gross)
Design phase:
Construction phase:
2012 – 2013

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