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2016 MCHAP

Heliopolis Social Housing

Mario Biselli, Artue Katchborian

São Paulo, Brazil

August 2014


Mario Biselli / Biselli + Katchborian Architects Artur Katchborian / Biselli + Katchborian Architects


Melina Giannoni de Araujo / Biselli + Katchborian Architects (architect) Luiza Monserrat / Biselli + Katchborian Architects (architect)




Nelson Kon


Site of existing Favela de Heliopolis, glebe G: 16.655,40 sqm. Program was to design building complex for 420 x 50sqm apartments. Construction directives outlined low cost, meaning no mechanic elevators, extensive use of concrete blocks structural masonry, repetitive construction elements such as windows, handrails and inside apartment components for bathrooms and kitchens. As to avoid elevators while having 8 floors, a strategy of positioning the entry level was fundamental, in a way one should climb up stairs a maximum of 4 floors to reach home apartment, according to city law. For this matter project took advantage of site's topography. Footbridges across the internal patio are designed to maintain entry level to all blocks. Basically 2 apartment types were provided, and plus 2 for people with special mobility needs. First type integrates a linear floor lay out, the second is organized according to a 4 apartments for each staircase. Construction development should be performed in 2 phases, 1st phase is completed and inaugurated. 2nd phase is under construction.


The Favelas Re-urbanization is a wide prefectural program. Heliopolis favela is one of the most important in the city of Sao Paulo. It is about transforming informal territory of slums in order to provide housing with dignity and full citizenship (address, property of own house, sanitation, electricity, etc.) to inhabitants, while maintaining their original location in town. As a public initiative, it is intended to be a low budget construction effort to offer 50 sqm apartment units in a very productive scale. Along the 20th century a great amount of experiences in this field were performed by federal, state or city governments. Our impetus was to evaluate effectiveness of used typologies and criticize under the paradigm of designing a city block model, instead of designing isolated buildings in an industrial scale, which seemed to be the main characteristics about precedent examples. In our hypothesis, these characteriscs are on the origin of various problems and failures. The commission came to our office by the time I was beginning my PhD program at Universidade Presbiteriana Mackenzie, where I am a Project Practice teacher since 1999, and I as able to include the Heliopolis Housing design process in my doctoral research. Our formal client is the construction company Passarelli, although the final client is the Secretariat for Housing of the Prefeitura do Municipio de São Paulo. In spite the fact we must declare Passarelli as the client (as the firm we have signed a contract with), municipal officials will attend in the eventuality of the MCHAP personnel visit to the site.


The Heliopolis Social Housing project is one of several interventions in a territory considered a true neighborhood: the Heliopolis Favela has around 200.000 inhabitants, and more than 3.000 commercial venues; it´s is the biggest favela in the city of Sao Paulo. Glebe G, the territory of our project, has a privileged position among the whole Favela territory, having it´s visible access in the border of the formal city. As a result, the new building block looks like a natural extent of the urban fabric. This has a huge meaning considering the broad future possibilities for Heliopolis as it starts an axis of intervention aiming to penetrate the inner core of the favela and spread actions fundamentally through good design for both architecture and urbanism. With this in mind, the architecture seeks to reconfigure the community's great sense of community. The "Parti" is about following the perimeter around the site in a way masses are positioned to configure building volumes and array of apartment units, and voids as an inner court with semipublic character, according to Herman Hertzberger's definition. Semipublic is both public and private, open to the city however mainly used and maintained by inhabitants. This is a scale for children to play in the yard, while mothers and fathers can watch from apartment window. Since inauguration the complex has been a case study for architecture students, and their visits are increasing a sense of proud in the community.

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