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A Trans-Scalar Approach to Architectural Design by Somatic Collaborative

A Trans-Scalar Approach to Architectural Design by Somatic Collaborative

Somatic Collaborative is a research-based design practice that focuses on a speculative approach to architecture, landscape, and urbanism founded by Felipe Correa and Anthony Acciavatti in 2008. As they like to state, they are interested in exploring design and architecture’s avocational and critical capabilities as mediators between society in space. Their concern for trans-scalar models is twofold: on the one hand, they envision the architect as a translator capable of turning the scales of environments, actors, and territories into “applied forms of spatial knowledge.” On the other hand, they choose not to specialize in a particular building scale but rather ride across them to produce meaningful, multilayered objects. In this piece, we present an exhibition, a book, a house, and a table.

São Paulo: A Graphic Biography

Exhibition and Book

No other city in the world has had greater a concentration of inner-city post-industrial land as that of São Paulo. This unique urban situation demands attention and rewards analysis. While the history of São Paulo dates back more than 450 years, most of its growth took place after World War II as the city’s major economic engine shifted from agriculture to industry. Today, as São Paulo evolves into a service economy hub, São Paulo: A Graphic Biography argues that the city must carefully examine how to better integrate its extensive inner-city post-industrial land into contemporary urban uses. The exhibition presents a comprehensive portrait of Brazil’s largest city, narrating its fast-paced growth through archival material, photography, original drawings, and text. This show builds on Correa’s book, published by the University of Texas Press, which carries the same title, and is the first comprehensive study of São Paulo’s urban evolution and current forma Urbis.

The exhibition curated by Felipe Correa, Sol Camacho, Devin Dobrowolski, and Anthony Averbeck in collaboration with Escola da Cidade brings to São Paulo a new reading of this exceptionally complex metropolis and suggests new ways of envisioning its urban future. Beyond presenting the first history of the Paulista urban form and carefully detailing the formative processes that gave shape to this manufacturing capital, São Paulo shows how the city can transform its post-industrial lands into a series of inner-city mixed-use affordable housing districts.

The book São Paulo: A Graphic Biography is edited by Felipe Correa and published by University of Texas Press, with contributions by Renato Anelli, Anita Berrizbeitia, Robert Gerard Pietrusko, Alexandre Delijaicov, Marcia C. Castro, Sol Camacho, Bruno Carvalho. Ph. Courtesy of Somatic Collaborative

“The São Paulo book, is as much about the challenges of the metropolitan area of São Paulo as it is about the many lessons in incredible architectural pieces you find in the city. That dialog for me is essential, when you’re looking at South America.”

– Felipe Correa

By reorienting how we think about these spaces, the exhibition and book offer a compelling vision of a much-needed urban restructuring that can help alleviate the extreme socioeconomic divide between the city center and the periphery. This 21st-century urban blueprint presents a unique perspective on how cities can imagine their future.

DATE: August 15 and November 15, 2019 / VENUE Galeria da Cidade at Escola da Cidade, São Paulo / CURATORS: Felipe Correa, Sol Camacho, Devin Dobrowolski, and Anthony Averbeck of Somatic Collaborative in collaboration with Escola da Cidade / SUPPORT: Haddad Foundation and the University of Virginia School of Architecture / TEXT: Somatic Collaborative

The Perched House

Proposal produced for EXPERIMENTA URBANA, a co-event organized for Documenta 14

Conceived as a house embedded in a 21st century winter garden, the Perched House examines how two architectural elements—a sole service core and a perimeter wall—can effectively organize a new model of living, work, and leisure, by giving spatial hierarchy through a single volume while simultaneously dissolving the boundaries between interior and exterior.

The core—conceived as a rectangular volume that contains all services—is placed as a bar that separates social areas facing the back garden from the office space that faces the street.

Towards the street, the bar accommodates an office library space with enough privacy to hold business meetings or focus on an office task. The backyard edge accommodates the kitchen and a fireplace, defining the living and dining room areas of the house. A staircase, wedged in the center of the core takes you to the bedrooms perched above the open volume. The southeastern and southwestern walls are made up of double-layered glass that functions as a ventilated air buffer, moderating the climate of the house throughout the year. During the summer, the outermost enclosure blocks direct insolation through a system of applied ceramic enamel fritting, and in the winter the air space serves as a greenhouse, protecting living spaces from extreme cold temperatures. The inner glass layer has a secondary fretted pattern that increases and decreases in intensity to calibrate privacy.

With an elastic and porous envelope, the house can at moments be part of the open landscape while at others it constructs its own interior winter garden, adapting effectively to shifting programs and weather.


A first in a line of furniture

Designed and produced in the summer of 2018 for a dining room in Charlottesville, Virginia, the Tripartite Table is the first to be developed under the Tripartite Furniture Collection, a series that explores the synthesis of substance and form through precise material and structural compositions. Conceived in Iroko wood, blackened steel, and glass, the table comprises three separate structurally integrated elements activated by their related geometries.

The profile of the tripartite table composes a structural diagram in which a rigid top plate activates the combination of tension and compression members that support it. A custom-fabricated hybrid bushing supports the glass table-top at its weakest point, serves as a routing mechanism for the cable tensors that support two folded steel plate wings, and is braced by a pair of intersecting pinned steel arches. The ‘arm and leg’ configuration of individual elements is designed to maximize leg room along the table’s edge while effectively transferring the load from the 96” X 33” X 1/2” sheet of tempered glass to the ground. The arms, linked laterally to the folded steel supports, meet the tapered Iroko legs at a customized 5-point connection node that integrates the structural and material elements of the table while freeing up corner space.

Celebrating the materialization of a structural diagram, the entire support mechanism is exposed beneath the glass. The table is intended to be used without a cloth, allowing the structure to become an integral part of the dining experience.

Listen to Florencia Rodriguez talk with Felipe Correa and Devin Dobrowolski of Somatic Collaborative in this podcast episode!

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