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Pontal Museum

Arquitetos Associados

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

October 2021


Alexandre Brasil, André Luiz Prado, Bruno Santa Cecília, Carlos Alberto Maciel, Paula Zasnicoff Cardoso


Rafael Gil Santos, Burle Marx Paisagismo, Projest, Sugan, Casa do Futuro


Museu do Pontal (Lucas Van de Beuque – Director)


Manuel Sá


This interaction between architecture and landscape is reinterpreted through the control of the scale of the new building and a careful study of the sequence of internal spaces that alternates rooms, patios and gardens. A materially simple and direct architecture reinforces the delicacy of the collection avoiding on the other hand dissolution amid the pulverized suburban surroundings. The facades are fragmented, alternating gardens that improve the ambiance of the interior spaces and define intervals along the exhibition narratives as glimpses of the exterior world. The scarce palette of materials – concrete, wood, glass, Portuguese stone pavement and vegetation – reinforces a sense of intimacy for the experience of the collection along a great diversity of spaces in terms of proportion, light, height, introspection and openness.
A modular constructive logic articulates concrete walls, steel beams and light enclosures and forms an environmental system that allows to easily adapt the building to new demands. These elements, on a 9x9m grid, create a controlled alternation between indoor spaces and outdoor gardens, single-height and double-height rooms, serviced and servant areas. Conceiving the building as a system rather than as an object expands the possibilities of use of spaces, the margins of freedom of its users, and consequently its lifespan. This way of reasoning also allows the construction to be modulated in time, in stages that keep up with the development of the institution itself. The building now open to public is just the first stage of a living structure and a changing landscape.


Housing the largest and most significant collection of Brazilian Popular Art, the original museum was settled in an old house transformed into an exhibition space at Recreio dos Bandeirantes, at a remarkable geography and amid an exuberant natural landscape. In 2014 the Museum suffered several floods due to the construction of a large vertical condominium for the Rio Olympic Games that modified the natural landscape and dumped the delicate system of drainage channels around, defining the level of new roads and neighboring constructions 1.5 meter above the museum’s site. After years struggling to protect its precious collection from imminent risk, the Pontal Museum obtained from the City Hall the cession of a new plot at Barra da Tijuca and part of the resources for the construction of a new headquarters.
The main characteristic of the original site was a synthesis between a remarkable landscaping and austere buildings defined by a non-monumental scale, with a sense of respect and care to the powerful delicacy of the collection. Nonetheless, the new site presented a blank slate: regular geometry, flat topography, absence of significant vegetation, uninteresting close views; and long higher views that could be interesting for collective spaces. Building a new Museum there required simultaneously the construction of the place, or a new interweaving of reinvented landscapes at their various scales. Both the landscaping – by Roberto Burle Marx’s office – and the architecture are conceived as a living feature that will transform and grow on time.


In the first months of operation, the museum reached the peak of visitants corresponding to a year of visitation in the former location. This intense presence of people changed positively the place, characterized by a very low density and a predominant residential occupation. The intense activities are transforming the complex in a new cultural destination at the city of Rio de Janeiro. The implementation of the gardens, as well as several cultural actions of the museum, have been carried out through crowd funding, which contributes to the construction of an affective relationship between the public and this new place, which is permanently under construction. This museum, in its intertwining between architecture and landscapes, pays homage to the words of Roberto Burle Marx: “Time completes the ideas.”

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