Espaço Unisinos is a new campus in Porto Alegre. Its refreshingly modern architectural image and composition of open spaces has transformed the urban dynamics of the residential area where it was integrated. Commissioned by Unisinos (Universidade do Vale do Rio do Sinos), a traditional local university run by the Jesuits, the plan includes an educational building and a theater, as well as commercial and parking spaces.
Originally, the project was the result of a close competition between five architectural offices in Porto Alegre, with the proposed site being the vacant space adjacent to a Jesuit school. After the team from AT Arquitetura won the competition, the university’s authorities changed the building site. Another larger site was selected, located right in front of the school and a kindergarten, which would eventually be renovated.
Aura of openness and balance
One of the main conditions for the new project was to preserve the open views from the school and to get the most out of the building ground, according to the permitted floor area ratio and heights. The result is an eight-story educational building located in one corner of the site, not visible from the school and secluded from the street, as well as a rather compact project extending along the rest of the site. An aura of openness and balance is achieved, with commercial spaces, walking areas, terraces, an access esplanade and a semi-buried courtyard.
Most of the retail stores and small cafés face a walkway that is half covered by a 7-meter-high pergola and borders a large wooden terrace overlooking some lush private gardens. The tree crowns form part of the terraces, providing a wonderfully natural environment for the numerous students and visitors. Along with the custom-designed outdoor furniture, it provides them with a space to meet and relax in the sun.
In order to avoid a retail-related image as the main facade, the project features an 80-meter-long and 11-meter-high screening green wall exhibiting a two-colored composition of native plants (Cuphea gracilis and Tradescantia). Behind it, another semi-roofed linear area offers spaces for sitting and relaxing.
The entire project adapts to the street’s change in elevation, creating different levels and stepped terraces. At street level, a large esplanade allows access to all of the spaces making up the educational-cultural compound. On one side, a semi-buried courtyard provides sunlight to the underground spaces, the library and students’ recreation area. However, the most interesting function of this open space is as an outdoor theater. Connected to the auditorium’s stage via a removable 14-meter-wide door, it offers an ideal setting for open-air performances.
The auditorium has a total indoor capacity of 470 seats. Appearing in the architectural composition as a separate volume, the theater has independent access and a green roof, which can be appreciated from the upper floors, adding to the area’s new urban image. This roof is completely planted with Boldo (Peumus boldus), an aromatic indigenous plant that grows abundantly in Porto Alegre.
The project required the inclusion of 1,000 parking spaces provided on two underground levels and two levels above the street, using the change in elevation for creation of the terraces. Across the street, an architectonically impressive footbridge spans the existing avenue. The footbridge provides a pedestrian connection for people arriving by bus and connects the university’s underground parking with the existing school.
Location: Porto Alegre, Brazil
Date of completion: 2018
Project size: 56,000 m2
Designers: AT Arquitetura
Project managers: Andre Detanico, Tarso Carneiro, Mauricio Ceolin
Landscape plan: Landscape Sul
Lighting plan: Cristina Maluf
Client: Universidade do Vale do Rio do Sinos / Associação Padre Antonio Vieira
Photography: Marcelo Donadussi