[This is a two part article. My second visit to Harmonia 57 can be read here].
Today I went to Vila Madalena, a vibrant, creative and artistic neighbourhood in São Paulo to visit Harmonia 57, the award-winning building designed by French Brazilian architects Tryptyque and constructed by Bassani Architects. Built in 2008, and located at the end of Rua Harmonia, it is home to five minimalist yet colourful and friendly clothes shops, and as a result the visitor is free to explore the building at leisure.
Although a manufactured object, the building was designed as a living body, with the ability to breathe, sweat, age and regenerate.
One of the most striking features are the walls, which have pores containing a great variety of plants and flowers. Water was a key design element, the building being able to irrigate itself automatically via the automatic pumping of recycled water via the external pipes.
The vision of Tryptique was to create a vision of sustainability “living in the future”. Did they succeed? I would say emphatically yes. As you can imagine, I no great fan of the homogenous, sterile and soul-destroying shopping centres which can be found across the globe. Harmonia 57 is more a calming oasis, and invites the visitor to relax, and engage not just with the clothes inside the shops, but with the building and environment as a whole.
Companies such as Puma are already working on developing accounting procedures to take into account the impact of their actions on the environment. Patagonia produces outdoor clothing for outdoor sports, and as they say, much of the reward from these sports comes from developing a “close connection to nature.” Hence Patagonia donate 1% of their sales to grassroots environmental groups, and even have as a slogan “buy less”.
How wonderful would it be for these ecologically aware companies to have shopping centres such as Harmonia 57 to sell their wares? With this type of building, we could perhaps begin to stop people being seen as just “consumers”, but to create places and spaces where a truly ecological world view can be allowed to flourish. Tryptique have certainly created a truly inspirational building, and if you are able to take a visit, I would strongly recommend it.
This article continues in Part 2 where you can read about my second visit to Harmonia 57: