The IMS Paulista, São Paulo’s unit of the Instituto Moreira Salles cultural centre, was opened to the public in September 2017. It is located on the Paulista Avenue, one of the city’s main touristic and cultural corridors. Designed by Andrade Morettin Arquitetos, the project was selected through an architecture competition which took place in 2011. The institute’s construction began in 2014 and lasted almost 4 years.
The IMS seen from the Paulista Avenue
As we approach the building, we notice at first a translucent volume. The building is glazed with a U-shaped cast glass which allows light to pass through yet gives the facade a blurry aspect. Pierre Chareau’s and Bernard Bijvoet’s “Maison de Verre”, was an inspiration for Andrade Morettin’s design. The Parisian glass house has a glass block cladding which creates a similar duality between transparency and opacity.
IMS’s diffuse transparency allows us to see behind its glazing the outline of a second volume– a red coated mass detached from the building’ envelope. This red volume houses the exhibition rooms, right at the building’s core. The contrast between the glass envelope and the galleries’ volume is established not only by the difference in colour and transparency, but also through the distinction between the envelope’s right angles and the inner volume’s slanted shape.
The building seems to barely touch the floor. At the ground level, at the centre of the plot, an escalator invites the visitor to enter the cultural hub. Towards the back, there is a restaurant with a green living wall, a pocket-garden right in the middle of the Paulista Avenue.
Inside the building
Going up the first flight of stairs, we find ourselves surrounded by bookshelves and study rooms. This is the photography library, which holds a collection of over 30 thousand items.
Moving further up, we arrive on an intermediate level between the library (below) and the exhibition rooms (above). This intermediate floor resembles a public square as a result of the Portuguese pebble stone flooring, the benches and the assembly of diverse uses such as a café, a bookshop, restrooms, and a cloakroom. This level also includes a balcony, visible from the street level, which offers the visitors a breath-taking view of the city.
There is another similar balcony on the opposite façade, facing the back. The banisters are made of glass panels with a metallic handrail fixed on the inside. It is an elegant solution that is also applied to the stairs leading up to the galleries.
There are two ways of reaching the exhibition rooms: either by taking the elevator, enclosed by a concrete wall, or through the open staircase. In contrast to the grey colour of the metallic handrails and the exposed concrete, the stairway’s wooden steps bring warmth to the circulation spaces.
The IMS Paulista has three main exhibition galleries. Despite the glass door entrance, these closed-off spaces enable total control over artificial lighting and temperature, thus aiding the museology’s and curator’s work. The rail lighting system offers versatility and flexibility for the exhibition space.
The space between the glass envelope and the internal galleries resulted in the creation of a skylight on the roof. The circulation spaces in this interval, therefore, are mostly lit by natural light. This interval also enables the visitor to clearly see the different layers and elements that make up the IMS cultural hub: the facade responsible for the incidence of light and thermal control; the metallic structure supporting the building; and the exhibition spaces which are the heart of the institute. The visitor is able to completely understand how the building works.