São Paulo, Brazil, is the largest city in South America and the fourth largest in the world, with more than 18 million people living in the metropolitan area and 11 million in the city alone. Although the Jesuits who founded the city in 1554 named São Paulo, Portuguese for Saint Paul, today’s residents are descendants of immigrants from many other countries.
Since the mid-19th century, when the city began expanding rapidly as a result of coffee growing on surrounding plantations, the capital of the state of São Paulo has grown continually and blossomed into Brazil’s industrial and financial center. Traditionally, most of those successful industrialists settled in a neighborhood called Jardim Europa (Europe’s Garden), where the streets are laid out organically with large houses and gardens that resemble the classic European style. The contrast between these classy and wealthy neighborhoods and the typical poverty-stricken streets could not be starker; these poorer neighbourhoods form the most central parts of the city and remain one of the city’s most unfortunate characteristics.
However, as in any other part of the world, these manicured neighborhoods add beauty to the city and the landscape design for each one of the private residences that constitute. In São Paulo, landscape designer Isabel Duprat is a well-known professional whose work focuses on these kinds of residential projects. Two of them, located in Jardim Europa, show creative designs, sometimes intimate and sometimes more open, where water is an important factor.
Date of completion: November 2007
Location: Jardim Europa, São Paulo-SP
At the time Isabel Duprat was called to make a proposal, the owner of the house had purchased a second lot, adjacent to the one of the house, adding some complexity to the existing conditions of the site. The level of the new addition was more than one meter higher than that of the original lot, for this reason the biggest challenge of this project turned out to be the integration, both physical and visual, between the two.
One of the most important goals of the designer was to preserve open vistas from the house to the new lot, which would become a focal area of the garden, and an important visual connection from this new space toward the building. On the other hand, another main issue was the creation of an architectural element that would act as the connecting component between the two areas and which would appear as part of the original design.
In order to respond to this necessity, Duprat designed a linear pergola which runs along the back facade of the house, reaching the back garden; the white columns that make this pergola repeat the original design of the ones that belong to the original facades, and the roof is made of wooden beams, on top of which vines and other plants grow profusely. This space acts as an elevated linear greenhouse because it is covered with a glass panel that retains the heat and helps these plants to grow faster, thus creating a dense green canopy on top of the pathway.
On one side, this pathway is enclosed by the guest rooms and some other new spaces that serve the main house and, on the opposite side, it opens up toward a central meadow-like area; the end of the walkway coincides with the elevated garden, which was created by taking over most of the second lot and which is differentiated from the central garden by a stone retaining wall. This wall, as well as the pool edges and all new floor surfaces, were built with red sandstone to match that historically used for this area of the city and parts of the entrance of this house. This Brazilian stone, natural to São Paulo’s countryside, was frequently used for street and outdoor paving in the 1930s and 1940s.
Right next to this wall, a swimming pool establishes another point of contact between the elevated garden and the central widespread plane of lawn. Outlined by one curvilinear side, coinciding with the wall and a tropical-looking border of flowers and shrubs, and an opposite straight side, this pool was finished with green tiling which makes it look almost as a natural extension of the lawn. Behind the pool, and some steps higher, the elevated garden presents a very dense planting plan based on mostly subtropical trees, palms, shrubs, groundcovers and herbaceous species, all of which generate a natural screen that provides privacy for the neighbors from the adjacent streets.
Date of completion: March 2008
Location: Jardim Europa, São Paulo-SP
This project is based on the use and design of the “leftover” spaces that remain vacant on the sides of the different components of the house. Part of the house was renovated and extends along the south linear side of the lot, leaving an empty narrow strip which is enclosed by one of the party walls; added perpendicular to the renovated wing is a new construction made of glass, which visually integrates with the garden. On both sides of this new addition, the garden is laid out as both a passive and an active area, respectively; the east side becomes the passive one and the west side incorporates the swimming pool and its decks.
The visual connection between the south back garden and the east garden is achieved by means of an artificial meandering stream that appears in both spaces, flowing at ground level, and seems to naturally go across the lot and the house. Alongside this stream, spreads a dense planting plan whose lay out is different in both gardens. In the back garden, the water line is framed only on one side, with shade species and groundcovers, and on the opposite side offers a paved walking area; in the east garden, which can be reached by going through the renovated building, the stream is framed at both sides by groundcovers, herbaceous and palms, thus generating a very luxuriant composition.
The third space or west garden is the largest and more open. Because one of the requests which the owner had was a 20 meter-long swimming area, the designer divided the space of the garden and took the largest side to outline a swimming pool. This 20 meter side is the only straight edge of the pool; the opposite edge is developed as a series of three continuous curves which seem to enter the water as different small gardens. A wooden footbridge is the only piece that interrupts the aquatic surface and connects with the rest of the garden, which is a lawn area only planted on its edges and dotted with white granite pieces that mark the entrance to the house’s public areas.
Part of the swimming pool becomes an indoor pool; therefore the view of the garden and water is especially significant from the house.
The planting plan incorporated some of the existing old trees and palms and added some others to outline the limits of the garden. Textures, shapes and some color combine very soberly in this project and offer a warm and consistent image. Some of the species are Chrysalidocarpus lutescens, Strelitzia augusta, Spathyfilum canaefolium, Liriope muscari, Pinanga kuhlii and Aglaonema crispum.
The presence of water, sometimes subtle and sometimes obvious, helps to create a very refreshing and relaxing ambiance.