Category: Studies

Downtown São Paulo

Summer in São Paulo, my home town.
I love it. I hate it!
Walking through a popular gallery, as we call small groups of cheap shops, in old downtown… very close to where kings and princes used to come listen to Opera we trip on culture.
This beautiful mosaic panel was done by the artist himself: Portinari… an Italian born painter/sculptor who lived here.

It is about 7 m tall by around 18 m wide. A non contained element mix… an attempt to modernity…

Art amidst caos

Art amidst caos

Walking further in the old downtown mess, cars and buses buzzing and screaming around you, popular fairs, burglars, old derelict buildings we come by another beautiful intervention. This time by Di Cavalcanti another imported artist who adopted this once beautiful land, now covered by populist and corrupt polititians.

Take in this marvel, free for show at the corner of Rua Augusta and Avenida São Luis. This one is about 2 x 8 m and was an order from the building owner who ran a newspaper print in it.

Colorful Cubist Modernist Wonderful

Colorful Cubist Modernist Wonderful


Site Observation .006

Actual “in loco” site observation is now quite jeopardized by the healthy growth of vegetation, with its leaves blocking most of the views we could previously see when in winter.

Now the river has risen quite a bit and occupies most of the site, covering it with its spirit and its companions (snakes, turtles, alligators…). Birds seem to be in a tantrum! So much food! So many leaves to hide and produce its chicks.

The actual impression is that the site is much smaller than I previously perceived it to be. I imagine that, to make it more usable, we need to enhance dry area (apologies to the ecology frieks) by bringing in lots of earth/sediment to heighten some selected regions.

We also need to create solutions as to address the risk aspect related to possible snake bites. Accidents with snakes will represent the death of the park and also some innocent snakes.

Another important aspect is that we need not only to create vegetation and maintain it so that it can later “walk by itself”, but also we need to choose areas where to creat voids. The feeling within the batture now is of repression and “closedness” (am I inventing words?). I believe that one beautiful aspect of an open space is exactly that! It’s open! Planning views towards town and the river will give the user a sense of location and that should augment the feeling of safety. Being “out there” gives us urbanites a bit of an insecurity sensation. Opening up views and making access points clear from afar will contribute to reduce this feeling, I believe.

The batture residents tents are still there, defying the river… Are these people going somewhere else if a park is implemented there? Should they become part of the process? Do they want to?

The drafts I scanned and attach here represent some of my thoughts on how to deal with these issues.

This one below summarizes a few studies on earth movement ideas, mostly enhancing dry area (III in the sections). I play with the idea of separating or integrating the 3 zones previously mentioned (wet, semi-wet, dry). I also created some movement within the river enhancing its margin and exploring niches for boat safe housing as well as different experiences one may have at the water level when river level is below 20′ (right now it’s above 31′).

This one starts thinking of zoning. We have two main connections here: the Casino and the Visitor Center. Both have plenty of parking space, but it seems that the Casino on the north is not a very popular choice, having very little movement. Also its parking spaces next to the park are at a low level, so some work would need to be conducted over there.

Our concept of creating a new water feature next to the Visitor Center, renders itself appropriate to create a connection (through water) to a park feature. An observation deck would be a great pulling force for visitors to cross River Road and explore a little further. On their way there we’ll tease them to walk a little further into the park and observe what we have implemented there for their amusement. The main idea, though, is to motivate local residents to bring their families and share a fun space integrated with nature. The force of the river would be diverted by a structure at river level, mostly composed of Gabions, that will be installed in the river bed, reducing its speed and the perceived danger that the river currents bring in their soul.

The sections exaggerate separation between ecosystems as an attempt to allow for human use without too much interference from wildlife and vice-versa.

Finally the bike path that stops several yards before the beginning of the park will be brought into the park, indirectly integrating current use of walks to the intended constructed park.

And the deliverables! What can I say? Sections showing specially water features within the park, perspectives showing the “openess” idea as well as the way I intend to place the board walks. Plans with all the earth movement in contour level changes, including the observation deck, placement of multipurpose sports courts and possibly a big wet area with water disconnected from the river (this is a must). Location and aspect of rest areas, with users enjoying it. Mockup models and a permanent one to fit into the class model.

Visiting and site observation

Orange and I went to De Soto yesterday.
Motivation: site observation and strategy choices…
We were twice warned by Casino personnel not to get close to the water and were questioned by security people on what we were doing there. I guess that Orange’s figure seems very threatening motivating this concern, with the security head even mentioning 9/11, an unfortunate series of events in contemporary history.
Back to the site, the awareness that there are 14 Alligators and several types of snakes did make me more alert! We actually saw a water rattle snake about 5 feet from us. It saw us much before we saw it, so it had time to turn around and flee swimming into the water. It made me wonder how feasible it would be to have small children and moms in such an environment.
Does environment conservation and human recreation go well together, if taken to the urban scale of things? Keeping dangerous animals (not to mention human beings) out of the park or at least fencing them off would be and alternative?
Should we conceive a hovering park?… fluctuating above everything… unaffected by these dangerous intercourses?
Well, I guess that the attached pdf answers part of these questions…


The opportunity is great for this location. So close to communities to the East, before and beyond I-10.
My approach looks at the site in both ecological and practical manners.
I’ll divide the site in three tiers, as far as water intrusion is concerned:
I) Always dry (further away from river)
II) Sometimes wet
III) Almost always wet (next to river)
The north side of the site seems more appropriate do active recreation, since it presents a wider breadth of dry space so that more definitive structures can be established.
I intend to enhance the dry space somewhat, to harbor other more stable structures and uses, such as a strolling path for baby carts and rest areas for moms who are tired of being inside and need some air/interaction with nature.
The wet areas provide a great opportunity for space exploration and creation of interactive structures, such as underwater tunnels, protected boardwalks, undulating walks, going into and out of water as well as an advanced pavilion into the Mississippi River, creating and advantage point for observation of the surrounding environment, including DeSoto Park itself.
Propitiating plenty of shade for establishing picnic areas will allow users to enjoy their lunch in a calm and retired environment, with fixed furniture, protected from rain and sun.
These concepts are illustrated in the images below.
In the next couple of days I’ll gather realistic images of strategic points and illustrate these concepts in these frames.
Connection to the Visitor Center and town will be done by paths and street level crossings, leaving the main path closer to River Road, for higher speed bicycles and restricting their access to the inner paths, where I’ll seek to implement a calmer and more harmonious environment.


Some of our folks in studio were wondering where to get graphical data on the levels the water reaches over several months and years in Baton Rouge.

The Army Corps has a pretty good technical site with all this type of data at

In any case, here is the result of a query I did on their database.

In table format, from 1987 till today you can get at their above site and it’s raw data (no use posting it here).

Nevertheless there’s a good graph, that I copy below, for general use.

Levels of the Mississippi River 2003-2012

As part of the research on Riparian Ecological Succession, I found this list of plants from the Center for Watershed Protection .
We may already know some of these trees (it’s mainly trees), but organized data listing them by tolerance to several environmental conditions is a great resource, for obvious reasons.

Tree Selection Guide

Today’s desk crit with Gary Smith was very productive!
I was overloaded with scientific data and was lost on how to represent it.
He suggested that what I produce could be viewed as an inspiration for designing future work.
So, if you’re in a batture level where there is no flooding, the tendency for the vegetation is to mature into a high canopy, shading the undergrowth and creating 3 to 4 strata layers.
According to vegetative growth it would evolve (succession) slowly to this condition, but as designers we need to realize that there is all this time before this maturity arrives.
With that in mind, the design process can compensate for the immaturity of the successional phase with architectural elements or plant choice in such a way that the experience of place would still be close to a mature situation.
He observed that many designs forget to take this immaturity period into account and we end up with “empty” spaces in the beginning of a garden’s life. So design should take this into consideration.
Same thought process can be repeated for the two other main regions in the batture situation: commonly flooded region and eventually (for short periods of time) flooded regions.
Now all I need to figure out is how to put that in an illustration! Any suggestions?

We did some search on the water level variations of the Mississippi river at Baton Rouge.

The Army Corps has some nice and complete data. Take a look!!!

Water Level Variation Along the Year from 2007 to 2011

There is data on much earlier information. If you need it, just go to:




For temporary situations these are commonly used: Temporary Curbs

A profile of a typical installation of a low volume road: Profile-Layout1

We thought that these two examples would give everyone an idea of the profile needed to install asphalt.

I’ve seen it simply sprayed onto untreated soil and it wasn’t a good idea for pavement durability!

So, keep in mind that preparation is a key element for durability. Costs a little more, but it’s certainly worth it!


Researching on asphalt surfacing was pretty interesting, although most people think it is the most boring surface as far as Landscape Architecture is concerned.

It covers over 80% of the paved surfaces of the USA, being the most flexible and cheap material to deal with.

Kossen is publishing all the text we’ve researched and I’m putting up a few files for you to enjoy.

Take a look at them and if you have any questions or need further info, we found some pretty neat stuff in the Michigan DOT web site.

Below you can see a sequence of the construction process, from the surveyor, to the preparation of the soil base, spreading asphalt and compacting as well as the finished beautiful work!

Here are some details I though might interest everyone, since we had some trouble finding this stuff for our vector sections.