The renovation of a gorgeous brutalist house in Brazil

I went to college at the University of Toronto, which saw a ton of growth in the 1950s and 60s, when brutalist architecture was a big deal — so the campus was filled with utterly charmless, blocky concrete structures. Generally I found the aesthetic pretty depressing. There's one building in particular — Sidney Smith Hall (picture here) — which is just unremittingly bleak; it looks like a bunker from 80s-era Doctor Who, the sort of poured-concrete structure that Daleks would pour out of, shrieking EXTERMINATE. It housed the psychology department, an irony lost on no-one.

Still, nostalgia being nostalgia, these days when I visit the campus, all those grey boxes seem … kind of cool? Maybe time has healed all wounds, but I now find Brutalist architecture oddly appealing.

So I was particularly impressed when my friend Harry Allen drew my attention on Twitter to this deeply funky Brutalist building in Brasília that's being renovated. That's a picture above, by Edgard Cesar, and he has a bunch more amazing ones at the site — go check them all out.

It is one of the grooviest places I've seen in a while:

Led by architect Lutero Leme, from the Arquitécnika studio, in Brasília, the project aimed for the revitalization of a Brutalist residence, built in the federal capital in the 70s, originally designed by architect João Filgueiras (also known as Lelé). With 1,968m² of built up area on a 12,000 m² lot area, the intention was to keep the original exposed concrete and its volume, creating current technological solutions. To this end, the style and trait were maintained, but everything else was reconsidered. A challenge, due to the structure of the house. With only four supporting pillars, the plan has two floors and a large concrete structure with rod-bound roof slabs, which makes the house move up to two centimeters a day, depending on the ambient temperature. This movement was the starting point for the entire intervention project, as the materials had to be prepared for any expansion, without forming cracks or fissures. For this, drywalls and frames were designed with a floating system.

Regarding the old plan, the lack of privacy in the rooms of the residence has always been an observation by the owners. To correct it, the architect invested in new installations and acoustics techniques. Aesthetically, decorative sculpted elements were used to separate rooms and allow natural ventilation. In the finishing touches, exposed concrete, wood, marble and granite. Lighting, which previously had a dismal appearance, also gained new lighting and automation solutions. All rooms in the house have large glass panels with a wide view to the outside. The living room, with glass room dividers which allow for a 270 degree vision, promotes a beautiful view of the garden, of the whole city and of Lake Paranoá. One of the highlights is the Athos Bulcão panel: measuring 170.8 m², it is the largest piece in a private residence in the world.