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Museu do Pontal

Arquitetos Associados

Rio de Janeiro, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

October 2021


Bruno Santa Cecília (Lead Architect), Paula Zasnicoff Cardoso (Lead Architect)


Rafael Gil Santos (Architectural Design Developer), Burle Marx Escritório de Paisagismo (Landscape Design), Projest (Structural Engineering), Casa do Futuro (Natural Ventilation Consultant)


Museu do Pontal - Lucas Van de Beuque (Director)


Manuel Sá


The interplay between architecture and landscape is reimagined by controlling the scale of the new building and meticulously studying the sequence of internal spaces, alternating between rooms, patios, and gardens. The architecture, characterized by simplicity and directness, enhances the collection's delicacy while avoiding dissolution within the fragmented suburban surroundings. The facades feature fragmentation, interspersed with gardens that enhance the interior ambiance and offer glimpses of the outside world, contributing to the exhibition's narrative flow. A limited palette of materials—concrete, wood, glass, Portuguese stone pavement, and vegetation—creates an intimate experience across diverse spaces, varying in proportion, light, height, introspection, and openness.
A modular construction logic integrates concrete walls, steel beams, and lightweight enclosures, forming an adaptable environmental system that allows the building to easily adapt to new demands. These elements, arranged on a 9x9m grid, create a controlled alternation between indoor and outdoor spaces, single and double-height rooms, serviced and servant areas. Conceiving the building as a system rather than a static object expands space utilization possibilities, users freedom, and consequently its lifespan. This approach also allows for phased construction, adapting to the institution's growth over time. The current building represents just the initial phase of a dynamic structure and evolving landscape.


Housing the largest and most significant collection of Brazilian Popular Art, the original museum occupied an old house transformed into an exhibition space at Recreio dos Bandeirantes, nestled within a remarkable geography and surrounded by a lush natural landscape. However, in 2014, the museum faced multiple floods caused by the construction of a towering vertical condominium for the Rio Olympic Games. This development altered the natural landscape, disrupting delicate drainage channels and raising the level of nearby roads and buildings by 1.5 meters above the museum’s site. After years struggling to protect its precious After years of struggling to safeguard its invaluable collection, the Pontal Museum secured a new plot in Barra da Tijuca from the City Hall, along with partial funding for constructing a new headquarters.
The original site boasted a harmonious blend of striking landscaping and unassuming buildings, showcasing a non-monumental scale that reverently complemented the collection's delicate nature. However, the new site presented a starkly different canvas: characterized by uniform geometry, flat terrain, sparse vegetation, and uninspiring vistas up close, juxtaposed with expansive panoramic views suitable for communal spaces. Constructing a new museum here necessitated not only building a physical structure but also creating a new, cohesive landscape that seamlessly integrated with various scales. Both the landscaping – foreseen by Roberto Burle Marx’s office – and the architecture are conceived as a living feature capable of growing and evolving over time.


Flexibility and growth are essential principles for ensuring cost-effective operation of a privately owned family museum. High-ceiling spaces in technical areas allow for future expansion of storage and art depository areas through the addition of steel mezzanines, a resource extendable to other museum zones. During the design phase, prioritizing natural air conditioning for collection and exhibition spaces led to a high-ceiling structure with natural ventilation, creating comfortable environments with minimal energy consumption (monthly costs of R$7,500.00/US$1,500.00 compared to an average of R$150,000.00/US$28,500.00 for recently constructed museums in Rio de Janeiro).
In the first nine months of operation, the museum saw visitor numbers peak, equivalent to a year's visitation at its former location. This increased footfall has positively transformed the area, previously characterized by low density and residential occupancy, into a new cultural destination in Rio de Janeiro. The implementation of the gardens, as well as several cultural actions of the museum, have been carried out through crowdfunding, fostering a strong bond between the public and this continually evolving space. The museum, with its fusion of architecture and landscapes, echoes theses words of Roberto Burle Marx's: "Time completes the ideas."

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