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Pina Contemporânea

Arquitetos Associados

São Paulo, São Paulo, Brazil

March 2023


Paula Zasnicoff Cardoso (Lead Architect), Carlos Alberto Maciel (Lead Architect)


Carolina Miguez (Architectural Design Developer), Marcos Vinícius Lourenço (Architectural Design Developer), Rafael Gil Santos (Architectural Design Developer), Felipe Fontes (Landscape Design), Heloisa Maringoni (Cia de Projetos ltda.) (Structural Engineering


Pinacoteca de São Paulo - Jochen Volz (Director)


Manuel Sá / Nelson Kon


The project objectives were developed in close interaction between architects and the institution, including directors, counselors, as well as curatorial, educational, conservation, and technical staff, and are as follows:
• To open up to the context, both to the city and the park, recognizing environmental structures, valuing integrations, and configuring a barrier-free public zone for more open and democratic uses, aiming to contribute to the urban requalification of a fragile and complex social context;
• To reverse obsolescence, acknowledging the historical value of pre-existing structures, giving them new uses compatible with their structure, spatiality, and materiality;
• To offer new open spaces of undetermined use that, by stimulating new and unforeseen appropriations, redefine the museum's meaning and vocation in terms of education and reflection for socio-cultural inclusion. Providing studios for educational activities, a library, and a documentation center as well as a set of gender-free public toilets, all adjacent to the central square at ground level with open public access, was essential;
• To add to the set of exhibition spaces available at the previous Pinacoteca’s buildings new scales, more curatorial and exhibition possibilities, and richer experiences for visitors, aiming to offer more appropriate and stimulating situations for contemporary artistic production;
• To seek exemplarity in environmental terms, both in the construction and operation of the building, pursuing silver LEED Certification while providing high international standards of environmental control in the exhibition spaces and technical reserves of the museum’s collection and documentation center.


Pina Contemporânea stands as the third architectural complex of Pinacoteca de São Paulo, a renowned Brazilian public museum subject to intervention by Paulo Mendes da Rocha in the 1990s. Situated within the historic park hosting the original museum, the new building traverses various layers of preservation interests and temporal dimensions.
The project reimagines a secluded space, once the school patio, as a vibrant public square, seamlessly integrating with the city and the park while articulating an axis that extends and interprets Mendes da Rocha's architectural intervention at an urban scale. Retaining and restoring remanescent structures from Escola Modelo da Luz (1905, set ablaze in 1930) and its sucessor, the modern Escola Prudente de Moraes (1950), the design harmonizes these fragments into a cohesive ensemble. A contemporary wooden canopy provides light and warmth, echoing the park's natural surroundings as well as interpreting in an open space the skylights of the central interior spaces of the former Pinacoteca, defining an inviting place that offers free access to a non-functional space.
A raised promenade enriches the visitor experience, accommodating amenities – café, belvedere and multipurpose room. Below ground, mitigating the impact of potential new volumes, the Grande Galeria offers an intimate flexible exhibition space tailored to contemporary art's needs.
A subtle topographic design articulates street and park, configuring the urban axis, while the modern building's main hall informs the placement of a bridge and elevators, organizing an architectural axis that links the original frontal garden, existing parts and new spaces, now spanning three levels.


The adoption of sustainable solutions aimed at reducing CO2 emissions, aligning as closely as possible with the UN Sustainable Development Goals. The following aspects were central concerning its performance:
• the adaptive reuse itself, reverting the obsolescence of existing structures.
• Industrialized construction for the canopy, circulation ring and other new interventions.
• Use of glued laminated timber – its first application in a public building in Brasil.
• Waste reduction through an emphasis placed on tectonic processes, including the construction process of the concrete slab covering the Grande Galeria, where construction molds were kept as finishes for the ceiling.
• Generation of clean energy through photovoltaic panels.
• Integral preservation of the existing significant trees in the frontal garden.
Parallel to the efforts to minimize impacts on both existing buildings and Jardim da Luz during construction, infrastructures were designed to reduce energy and water consumption, incorporating rainwater reuse and sewage treatment for reuse, thus guaranteeing LEED Silver certification.
The increase in visitors was notable: Pina Contemporânea opened in March 2023, after a short 16-month construction period, and received 284,157 visitors by the end of the year, accounting for 1/3 of the institution's annual visitation, despite being the smallest building in its complex – representing 16.7% of the institution's total area. The covered square, besides accommodating everyday life, garnered significant attention on social networks and media shortly after its inauguration due to various cultural and artistic activations held by the institution.

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