Although it maintains the scale of the houses in its upscale São Paulo neighbourhood, Triptyque Architecture’s commercial gallery stands out for its unmistakeable gravitas. But above the weightiness of its three-storey block, the rooftop terrace – a monolithic slab of concrete – floats nine metres above the ground, as if lighter than air. The Brazilian firm, which also transformed an historic building in the city into Red Bull’s cultural centre by adding an elevated roof, is definitely on to something.
With a 290-square-metre footprint and no fence to separate it from the street, Groenlândia is scaled to fit into a dense residential area dotted with towering jacaranda trees. But Triptyque’s bold choice of cladding, expressed as a solid expanse of white marble tiles, ensures the structure stands out from its neighbours.
Two massive concrete columns at the core of the building hold the rooftop terrace slab aloft, and ground the building’s interior zones. Inside, the ground floor is largely enclosed, with solid walls only intermittently blown open with expanses of glazing to offer views of the rock garden and papyrus-strewn water features outside. By day, these glass panels can be rolled back to open the ground floor directly onto the landscape features.
Above this, occupying the second and third storeys, a raw, double-height exhibition space encircles the concrete pillars, running corridor-like around the structure’s circumference. The columns themselves support cantilevered concrete steps leading to the third storey – housed entirely between the columns – and on to the rooftop. Uninterrupted clerestory windows top this exhibition space, creating the visual gap that makes the rooftop terrace seem to levitate. Along with a series of skylights, these clerestory windows provide the interior with a variety of lighting conditions.
Only a few eye-level windows break up the expanses of the second storey’s walls. On the street-side facade, the gallery’s geometry is defined by three unglazed square openings with swinging marble shutters. When open, they create dynamic, almost sculptural apertures that look onto the street below; when closed, they reassert the structure’s stoic character by merging with the minimalist marble cladding.