Escaping the hustle and bustle of São Paulo for the weekend is a way of life in the Brazilian megalopolis, not just for the wealthy, but for a large portion of the middle class too, as many regularly make the two- or three-hour trek to second homes in the rolling countryside outside of the city or on the stunning beaches of the Litoral Paulista. But for Brazilian architect Arthur Casas’ latest project, Pacaembu House, the client wanted something very different.
“I only want one house. Not two. I’m not driving anywhere for the weekend. I want to stay home and host all of my kids and our friends here, together, but with plenty of different spaces for the individual groups among us to gather. I want a house that is a home for all of us,” the client told Casas. The latter’s response? “It was an interesting challenge, not just because of the brief. The site is complicated. It is located on a hillside, dropping seven metres from top to bottom, but that allowed us to do something special. We were able to create a real sanctuary with amazing views.”
The entrance to Pacaembu House is located on a delightful cul-du-sac in the Pacaembu neighborhood, after which it is named. It is positioned slightly behind a tall perimeter wall, which is not only beautifully designed but also adorned with rebar and climbing trepadeira vines, a common sight in the city. As you catch a glimpse of the wall, it teases you by giving away just a touch of the incredible architecture that lies beyond. Stepping inside, you are immediately greeted by a lush entry garden, a tantalizing taste of what awaits you in terms of Luiz Carlos Orsini‘s breathtaking tropical landscape design.
The entrance foyer, flooded with natural light from a skylight positioned above, is situated at the intersection of two staircases – one leading to the upper level where the bedrooms and an apartment suite are located, and the other descending to a more extensive area below. At this point, it becomes evident that the residence gracefully cascades downhill, unfolding across its terraced terrain with a solitary, imposing structure perched atop. Within this compact reception space, a vast plate-glass wall serves as a window to an interior garden that stretches along the length of the stairwell and can be accessed from the living room. Serving as the centerpiece of this verdant scene, amidst the organic forms of the foliage, is a geometric sculpture crafted from steel and glass by the artist Tulio Pinto, creating a striking contrast. This lush vignette is just one of the many captivating features found throughout the property.
The expansive and voluminous living area of the home showcases a remarkable display of neutral tones and textures, expertly brought to life through the use of various materials such as marble, natural linen, leather, suede, bouclé cotton, and wool. The poured-in-place concrete walls, skillfully constructed using custom-designed forms by Casas, leave a lasting impression, particularly when illuminated from below, resembling a captivating work of art. Within the sitting area, a combination of classic and contemporary furniture pieces by renowned Brazilian designers, including Arthur Casas himself, can be found. Notable examples include Sergio Rodrigues‘ ‘Tonico’ lounge chairs, Marcelo Magalhães‘ ‘Quebra Galho’ armchairs, Casas’ ‘Fusca’ sofas, and four striking ‘Tiles AM’ coffee tables.
Adjacent to this primary sitting area, a secondary and more intimate space provides a sense of separation from a staircase and the formal dining room. This smaller living area is defined by a long, low console crafted from brown marble, seamlessly integrated into one of the house’s columns, and a curio cabinet featuring a propane fireplace. Within this space, one can find a Steinway piano, another ‘Fusca’ sofa, and a pair of ‘Poltrona F’ chairs designed by Zanine Caldas, positioned opposite Casas’ nesting ‘Arquipelago’ coffee tables. Serving as the foundation for this entire arrangement is a Nani Chinellato rug of such grand proportions that it had to be assembled on-site from multiple pieces, collectively weighing an impressive two tons.
The dining area is furnished exclusively with pieces from Casas, including the impressive ‘Amorpha Jumbo’ dining table and twelve ‘Max’ dining chairs. These furnishings are complemented by the elegant ‘Amorpha’ chandelier, which illuminates the room by casting light upwards towards the ceiling, which is adorned with European white oak. The dining space seamlessly connects to the main terrace outside through telescoping glass doors, creating a fluid boundary between the indoor and outdoor living areas. This luxurious feature is made possible by the region’s pleasant sub-tropical climate.
The outdoor terrace is designed to accommodate multiple groups simultaneously, making it ideal for hosting gatherings. Adjacent to various living areas, the outdoor kitchen is well-equipped for cooking and entertaining. These spaces are carefully designed to cater to the different preferences of the family and their friends, providing areas for dining and lounging. The terrace is further enhanced by the integration of tropical plants, creating a vibrant and inviting atmosphere. Just beyond this green oasis, there is a spacious and modern gym, a massage room, two saunas, and a dedicated play area for children.
From the rear garden lawn, one can truly appreciate the entirety of the house. The wide, horizontal poured-in-place concrete box delicately rests above the main terrace on lateral retaining walls. The façade of the house is adorned with dramatic wooden shutters, which not only make a bold design statement but also serve a functional purpose within the sleeping areas. These shutters automatically adjust with the movement of the sun, ensuring maximum comfort and energy efficiency. When closed, they create a striking wooden wall that contrasts with the large glass windows, which are perfectly proportioned on the façade.
The house boasts a landscaped rooftop garden and sitting area, creating a sense of grandeur. Despite its expansive size of 1,500 sq m, the house maintains a modest appearance. A significant portion of the property is nestled within the hill, allowing for additional amenities such as a music room, hair salon, wine cellar, eight-car garage, and various service areas. The elevator, main kitchen, and support facilities, including staff quarters, are discreetly hidden behind operable wall panels, ensuring they remain out of sight. The interior is well-lit, thanks to a thoughtful arrangement of light wells, skylights, and even glass flooring within the pool, which adds a touch of drama to the spaces below.
On the other side, a charming outdoor stairway adorned with lush foliage leads to an al fresco sitting area. This area features an outdoor fireplace surrounded by ‘Asturias’ lounge chairs designed by Brazilian designer Carlos Motta, as well as native trees, plants, and a koi pond. Adjacent to this space is another terrace located beneath the pool deck, which includes an outdoor kitchen and bar, dining area, and lounge sections enveloped in greenery. Additionally, a separate bedroom suite with a semi-private patio offers yet another space for relaxation, all within the confines of the sturdy stone perimeter walls.