SESC and the City

This exhibition is the result of a study done by students of ETH-Zurich and Universidade de São Paulo.

In 2019 they installed an interactive exhibition in Sao Paolo.

Results were presented
October 2021
HIL Foyer, ETH Zurich

Under the umbrella of the not-for-profit private institution Sesc, more than thirty social welfare centres provide affordable cultural, leisure, health and educational facilities to all inhabitants in the region of São Paulo. In the midst of the contemporary city, ‘Sescis’ introduce common provisions for the citizens of São Paulo throughout their days – from morning coffee, newspapers and pool to gym, restaurant and theatre shows at night — for all age groups – from toddlers to seniors.

Diverse perspectives

Students investigated social and urban infrastructure of six Sesc in São Paulo. Each building is analysed through architectural drawings of the urban contexts and internal organisation and photographs that capture the appropriation and social life of the buildings.

By means of writings and simple line drawings on postcards, visitors of the Biennale 2019 exhibition in São Paulo expressed their experiences with the ‘Sescis’.

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1: Sesc Consolação

Icaro de Castro Mello / Alfredo Paesani (1961–1968)

Address: Rua Dr. Vila Nova, 245, São Paulo
Built area: 16,571 m2
Public program: Theater, exhibition, restaurant, indoor pool, sports courts

The earliest purpose-built Sesc, Consolação was the first to group together sports and cultural activities, which occupy two interconnected volumes. Its stacking of different programs established a common typological feature among the otherwise highly-individualized Sescs.

Images by Mariana Wilderom

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2: Sesc Pompeia

2: Sesc Pompeia

Lina Bo Bardi (1977–1986)

Address: Rua Clélia, 93, São Paulo
Built area: 23,571 m2
Public program: Theater, multipurpose and common areas, restaurant, ateliers, sports bloc

In Sesc Pompeia, the cultural and sports activities are separated into two distinct building typologies. The free-flowing collective spaces, theater, restaurant and workshops are grouped in reclaimed factory warehouses dating from the 1930s. The sports block, with courts and swimming pool, occupies two purposebuilt, in-situ concrete towers to the south of the site.

Images by Mariana Wilderom

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3: Sesc Ipiranga

Julio Neves (1988–1992)

Address: Rua Bom Pastor, 822, São Paulo
Built area: 8,097 m2
Public program: Theater, gymnasium, café, indoor pool, garden

The location in a low-density residential area, next to a park of national significance, has restricted the height of this Sesc, whose functions are spread out rather than stacked. The external spaces – a small park with a playground – are as popular with users as the swimming pool and gymnasium, which are sunken below street level.

Images by Mariana Wilderom

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4: Sesc Vila Mariana

Bonilha & Arquitetos Associados (1988–1997)

Address: Rua Pelotas, 141, São Paulo
Built area: 25,277 m2
Public program: Open and indoor squares, theater, auditorium, exhibition space, café, indoor pool, sports courts, fitness room, parking

The Sesc consists of two tall volumes atop a longer plinth at street and below street levels. Smaller components such as the auditorium, workshops and offices are housed in the taller and slimmer tower, with atrium, at the front of the complex. The 700-seat theatre, swimming pool, gymnasia and a restaurant are stacked in the second, squatter tower. The horizontal and vertical components are connected at various levels by ramps and walkways assisting public movement throughout the complex.

Images by Mariana Wilderom

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5: Sesc 24 de Maio

Bonilha & Arquitetos Associados (1988–1997)

Paulo Mendes da Rocha and MMBB Arquitetos, 2000–2017

Address: Rua Dom José de Barros, 178, São Paulo, Brazil
Built area: 27,905 m2
Public program: Street-level covered square, common areas, library, dance studio, dental clinic, theater, auditorium, exhibition space, café, sports court, roof terrace with swimming pool.

The existing structure of a department store was completely remodeled and the original footprint increased with additional floorspace, including a section of ramps running across the entire west side and connecting all levels. The floors are conceived as continuous and undivided, providing a variety of uses and atmospheres: a street-level ‘Sesc square’, a naturally-ventilated foyer on the 4th floor, a covered garden with reflective pool on the 11th, and the terrace with swimming pool, creating a city beach at roof level. The glazed façade reflects the city.

Images by Claudia Kim

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6: Sesc Avenida Paulista

Königsberger Vannucchi (2004–2017)

Address: Avenida Paulista, 119, São Paulo
Built area: 15,807 m2
Public program: Exhibitions, multi-purpose area, dental clinic, library, café

The remodeling of a 1970s office tower resulted in a stackedup program on a compact footprint. This Sesc is primarily administrative; due to structural constraints, the public functions were reduced. Still, some floor plates were strategically
cut to create the double-height exhibition spaces on the 3rd floor and 12th floors, in addition to the streel level foyer. The public roof terrace at the 17th floor offers privileged views over the city.

Images by Mariana Wilderom

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During the 2019 installation at the Twelfth International Architecture Biennale of São Paulo, we asked visitors to note their own experience of Sesc centres by filling in drawings and writing on custom-made postcards. A selection of this candid social archive is shown in the following Section.
The most beautiful couple of Sao Paulo in the best Sesc in the world! (he prefers the Sesc 24 de Maio)
I love it. When I ente there is no longer any distinction. We’re all the same.
Very well thought, used, and amazing! Brilliant work, inspiring! Love it!
Today I hand in my graduation work. I am the first person to graduate in my family.
The Vila Mariana Sesc was one of the Sescs that I most frequented. It has a quiet atmosphere and a good pool! – Bruna

Partners and links

This is a research project of the Chair of the History and Theory of Urban Design at ETH Zürich, conducted by Tom Avermaete, Irina Davidovici and Hans Teerds.

We are grateful for the assistance of

Friederike Merkel, Tapio Snellman, Studio Mariana Wilderom (Mariana Wilderom, Claudia Kim and Guilherme Ribeiro Reis), our FAU USP guides in São Paulo (Rafael Grazziano, Allessandro Muzi, Akemi Morita), the ETH students who participated in the study trip to São Paulo in October 2019 (Jingxi Cen, Stefan Fierz, Hin Fung Sherman Lam, Friederike Merkel, and Giorgia Mini) as well as their FAU USP collaborators (Marcelo Arnellas, Teresa Cristina Barroso Vieira, Miguel Croce, Ana Caroline de Souza, and Maria Alice Floriano).

Contact: Hans Teerds