‘Renewable Home’ Report

“Brazilian couple Luiz and Edna Toledo have a home made from rubbish, literally. Not content with building themselves a recycled mansion, the couple now plan to construct an entire community from waste.

With walls made of bottles and a roof of bamboo, Luiz and Edna’s house cost a fraction of a normal building. And now an ecologically sustainable village is on the drawing board. “It’s definitely ecologically and economically sound, I think it’s fantastic. This house is life”, says local Government architect Laura. Could this be an alternative to Brazil’s disease-ridden favelas?”

My Take

Soon, people will stop saying ‘ecologically correct’ and just say ‘correct’ which will lead to ‘legally correct’. While ‘green’ is nice and all, it shouldn’t lead to legal pressure to take away our choices, but the current direction of things says it will.

38 Small, Comfortable Houses in Brazil

In unison with my previous post on the hottest properties in Brazil, here’s a post on creating a comfortable house with restriction on size. The website Casa.com.br has an image gallery of 38 small but comfortable houses and a little plus sign below each photo where one can gather more information on each property. The goal is to build smart due to a small property size and that’s what has been done with these houses. The other two goals, or rather, benefits, are a comparitively smaller price tag and a rapid building process. Oddly enough, I’m reminded of a documentary on censorship in Iranian journalism and how the more restrictions placed on what can be written, the more creative the journalist must become. I see a parallel with architects and micro-homes.

A place of well-being, elaborated by the architect Patrícia Martinez, for Casa Cor São Paulo 2008. While the wood floor invites one to walk barefoot, the gravel-lined passages offer a foot massage. The bathroom contains a sauna and the room, a fireplace and corner for exercise. – More Info (in PT)

The building is from 1930 and it was reworked by the architect Carlos Verna. On the outside, the bricks were lightened with a cement cream, chalk and sand, applied with a spatula. Next, the excess was taken off with a sponge. Carlos Verna elevated the house by 50 cm. He also set the garage ramp at 16 cm and two steps at 34 cm. – More Info (in PT)

Thanks to a no-frills, small project, the architect André Guidotti built this economic beach house for a couple in just six months. Integrated spaces and a standardization of finishes helped in keeping the overall cost low. – More Info (in PT)

Inspired by the Polynesian bungalows, the design team of Tais Marchetti and Giovanni Bonetti erected this house in front of a beach in Florianopolis, on a concrete slab supported by columns. – More Info (in PT)

The 2.60 meter high sliding doors made of fallen pine guided the steps of the kiosk (part of the new house). The overhang with a width of 60 cm prevents it from raining inside, since there is no glass closing on the gable roof. – More Info (in PT)

For more houses and ideas, check out this image gallery link and don’t forget Google Translate if you don’t speak Portuguese.

Narrow-minded Brazilian Architecture

Somewhere in a small town in Brazil, there’s a pretty narrow-minded architect, I mean don’t get me wrong, I’m sure he’s a real stand up guy but his head was a little in the clouds when he made this one…


In the small town of Madre de Deus in Bahia, of just about 4 miles squared, there’s a house that’s three stories high and seven feet wide and believe me, it’s an eye-catcher. The residence comes complete with two living rooms, a kitchen, three bedrooms and a varanda. The owners are two 40-somethings, Helenita Queiroz Grave Minho and her husband Marco Antonio and they live with their three children, Helenita’s mother, sister and one dog…go figure!

On the narrow plot of land, when Helenita found herself unemployed, she decided to build a house and rent it out for extra cash. Marco Antonio thought it was a crazy idea but in the end, he gave in and hired a bricklayer who happened to agree with Marco, saying that not even a fridge would fit in a place so narrow. And you know what? He was right. The family ended up having to take apart their appliances and furniture in order to get them in the house.

At the end of two years of work, the owners became satisfied with the house which was bigger than where she lived previously. Upon having this realization, Helenita decided to move to the narrow house and to rent out the old house, which today goes for around $350/month.

The mayor’s office made a fuss at the start but upon seeing the finished work, gave in as well and eventually accepted the new tourism spot where tourists come to sit in front and take pictures. Now, Helenita and Marco Antonio plan to build yet another story, this time without a roof so they can enjoy the sunshine and a nice bbq.


The 17th Century Comércio District – Belém

(The Firefighters of Pará on João Diogo st. on the border of Comércio & Campina)

I was browsing the net, more specifically the site ‘SkyScraper City’, when I came across some photos of beautiful buildings in Belém. The district is called Comércio and is situated next to Cidade Velha (Old Town) in the heart of Belém. In fact, the district is the second oldest in the city and many of the buildings are dated from the 17th century, reflecting the architectural motifs of the time in Lisbon.

After reading through the comments on the site above, I found quite a bit of information. The main avenue of the district is Avenida Presidente Vargas, probably named so due to the fact that the president stayed in the old Central Hotel (now the omnipresent C&A store). The so-called ‘anchor’ of the entire area is the 4-story department store called Yamada Matriz (the fourth floor is the coveted toy store). If you are in Belém and hear someone say they are going shopping “pra baixo” or “em baixo” (below), they are refering to Comércio in downtown Belém.

Octavio Frias de Oliveira bridge – SP

After seeing that one of the most popular posts on my site is in reference to the JK Bridge in Brasilia, I thought I’d post another nice-looking bridge. This time, it’s located in São Paulo’s Zona Sul district (more specifically the Brooklin neighborhood) which was completed last year (although last time I was in SP, it looked like this).

The Octavio Frias de Oliveira bridge is a cable-stayed bridge in São Paulo, Brazil over the Pinheiros River, which opened in May 2008. The bridge is 450 ft tall, and connects Marginal Pinheiros to Jornalista Roberto Marinho Avenue. If you are wondering about the name of the bridge, it references the late-Brazilian executive who started Grupo Folha, of Folha de São Paulo newspaper fame. The originally proposed name for the bridge was the Journalist Roberto Marinho Cable-Stayed Bridge, but at some point in the year prior to its completion, the name was changed. Perhaps there was an outcry from die-hard Paulistanos about the proposed name due to the fact that Marinho owned the newspaper O Globo and was a Carioca.

The bridge deck is unusual due to its form, which is similar to an “X”, crossing at the tower. Height-wise, if you were standing on the 46th floor of a building, you would be level with its highest point. It is also the only bridge in the world that has two curved tracks supported by a single concrete mast.

The construction began in 2003 after the Bahian contruction company OAS won the bid to build it.

“Of the 420 construction workers that helped build the bridge, 84 were born in the Northern state of Piauí and 126 arrived from the Northeastern state of Bahia. They have similar stories and many of them still plan on returning home. “Those who don’t study anything, who don’t have anything, must take any opportunity that appears,” says Jaílton Antunes da Silva, 47 years old, a Bahian from the Paulo Afonso municipality. “And the chance that I had happened to be in civil construction.” The workers on the bridge earn on average between $500 and $1,000 USD per month.” – Source (in PT)

Since the inauguration, a fully computerized system of LED lights changing colors and patterns, developed by Philips, illuminates the bridge at night.

Hotel Unique – São Paulo


Building: Hotel Unique
Architect: Ruy Ohtake
Project Year: 1999
Construction: 2002

Avenida Brigadeiro Luis Antonio
4700 – Jardim Paulista
São Paulo 01402-002


“Upon defining the form, as a long inverted arch (almost 100 meters in length) with two lateral concrete gables, we looked to characterize it with the concept of an urban hotel. The access to the hotel is through a large empty space to the right side and the Center of Events is, symmetrically, through the large empty space to the left. These two empty spaces, that start at 25 meters high, constitute a strong element towards the urban characterization of the site.

The circular windows, at 1.8 meters in diameter, allow for a dynamic composition on the façade, accentuated by the encasing of pre-oxidized copper slabs in three shades of green.

The hotel is composed of 6 floors (totaling 96 apartments). On the ground level, which has a curved double high ceiling, one can find the reception, bar and help desk, where an entire transparent glass wall was installed, making it possible to have a “conversation” between the hotel lobby and the city street outside. The restaurant, on the roof, with the necessary levity, obtained with details of glass and metallic structure, has a privileged view of São Paulo. The center of events, on the first lower level, containing modulated event halls, can make room for 1,500 people. And, three lower levels complete the building, for parking and infrastructure.

The internal space accompanies the external design: the apartment corridors are curved, allowing natural light to enter the circular windows. The apartments at either end have unusual characteristics: the floor ascends in a curve, rescuing the design of the façade, until it meets up with the surface, provoking a totally unique space.” – Ruy Ohtake (in PT)

The Leaf House


“Outside of Rio de Janeiro, on a beautiful little beach with amazing blue water, sits a little house with a flowering roof that shades and protects like a big tropical banana leaf. Designed by Mareines + Patalano, the open air abode is meant to encourage interaction and connection between man and nature. With verandas and open spaces in between rooms and no corridors, the tropical beach house is an ideal place for social gatherings and parties. The open layout also takes advantage of trade winds that blow in from the sea, providing natural ventilation and passive cooling.”

More photos are here.

Living in Bahia – Architectural Photography

I recently bought a great book on Bahian architecture, which not only shows the homes of various architects but also the houses they have designed. One of the houses included is that of Caetano Veloso. If you are into tropically-inspired architecture, this book will definitely give you some great ideas. If you speak German or French, translations are included on each page. 

“We have searched high and low for Bahia’s loveliest homes and spots, from typical fisherman’s huts to sophisticated modern homes. Highlights include a treehouse by sculptor and environmentalist Frans Krajeberg, a house made of corals owned by American actor Jamie Grange Stuart, an experimental house with a bamboo roof, and a house perched on a cliff built by artist Calazans.”

Living in Bahia (Amazon.com)

The Most Amazing Bridge in Brazil

The Juscelino Kubitschek Bridge (Ponte Juscelino Kubitschek), also known as the President JK Bridge or just the JK Bridge, crosses Lake Paranoá in Brasília. It is named for Juscelino Kubitschek de Oliveira, former president of Brazil, who in the late 1950s decided to build Brasília as the new capital of the country. It was designed by architect Alexandre Chan and structural engineer Mário Vila Verde.

The main span structure has four supporting pillars submerged under Lake Paranoá, and the deck weight is supported by three 200-foot tall asymmetrical steel arches that crisscross diagonally. The decks are suspended by steel cables alternating at each side of the deck, interlacing in some kind of twisted plane (parabolic like). The entire structure has a total length of 1,200 m, and it was completed at a cost of US$56.8 million (R$160 million – Brazilian Reais, current 2003). The bridge has a pedestrian walkway and is accessible to bicyclists and skaters.

I have driven across this bridge and it looks even more amazing in person, especially with the backdrop of the lake and the greenery surrounding it. Theres a good place just to the right after crossing the bridge (on the Paranoá side) where you can stop and take a picture of it.


Despite the structural design complexity and the higher cost of the chosen solution, these characteristics give the bridge a great architectonical beauty and grandiosity, up to the level of Brasilia’s majestic scale. Inaugurated on December, 15, 2002, this bridge immediately became one more of Brasilia’s favorite landmarks, especially at night. Chan won the Gustav Lindenthal Medal for this project at the 2003 International Bridge Conference in Pittsburgh. This medal is awarded “for a single, recent outstanding achievement showing harmony with the environment, aesthetic merit and successful community participation”.