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Photo © Nelson Kon

Studio SC

Studio MK27

São Paulo

Garden of Hidden Delights: Architect Marcio Kogan tucks a studio devoted to food photography within an industrial-style shell and expands its possibilities with a wall that opens to a secret courtyard.

By Hattie Hartman

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Located in São Paulo's Vila Olimpia neighborhood, Studio SC is a temple to food, or, more precisely, to food photography. It is also the ultimate expression of Brazil's current economic prosperity, and epitomizes a city where eating well is a serious business. Though it is primarily a working photo studio, the facility is also used for staging receptions and food demonstrations by and for the Paulista glitterati—including celebrity chef Alex Atala of the city's top-rated restaurant D.O.M.—in a luxurious setting where garden, interior, and roof terrace converge seamlessly.

The studio, designed by São Paulo–based architect Marcio Kogan and his firm, Studio MK27, is housed within a white metal shell inspired by the neighborhood's industrial past. The building's minimalist street facade provides a surprising counterpoint to the exquisitely detailed materials within. When visitors arrive, they are typically directed to a discreet double security door by a voice from an intercom—a reminder that São Paulo is a city where much takes place behind secure walls. They enter into a beautiful and boldly landscaped courtyard that runs the full length of the 143-foot-long site. Realizing that photography studios do not need windows, the architects cleverly opted for a narrow, 41-foot-wide single-aspect building that opens along its entire north side to embrace the 25-foot-deep garden, which is more an outdoor room than an ancillary space. A large gate in the street wall swings in to welcome guests (and deliveries) directly into the garden for gala events.

Sliding doors, just short of 10 feet high, separate the outdoors from the studio's main interior area, a spacious open gallery for photo shoots, flanked by a pair of double-height, boxlike structures that are simultaneously linked and punctuated by a slender concrete bridge. Made of custom panels and bifold doors of freijo, a Brazilian hardwood that contrasts with the building's gray terrazzolike concrete floors and limestone threshold, the two side volumes contain private office and conference areas on the upper floors and production spaces on each side of the ground level.

The building's parti reveals itself to visitors on the upper floor, where they can see it is all a pretext to cross from one side of the studio to the other via the bridge, which overlooks the main space with its workstations lining the long back wall. (Woe to any employee with a messy desk!) Influenced by the spatial organization of such notable Brazilian modernists as João Batista Vilanova Artigas, Kogan's design enables the studio to work simultaneously as a flexible area for photo shoots and as a place for social gatherings, which can spill out into the garden. The fabrication and configuration of all the materials reinforce the extreme linearity of the space, from the horizontal imprint of the narrow timber formwork on the concrete bridge to the verticality of the wood on the folding doors, which enclose an image-processing lab at one end and a kitchen across the way. The 1-by-4-foot dimensions of the custom concrete floor tiles reinforce the elongated effect.

“We are compulsive about all of the detailing, obsessively so,” explains project architect Suzana Glogowski. This is apparent in subtle aspects of the construction, such as the seemingly delicate trios of circular steel bars—only 1½ inches in diameter—that carry the 72-foot-long bridge across the room and a subtle 1-inch shadow gap between the bridge and the wood boxes on either side of it.

A third floor, surrounded on all four sides by a roof deck, houses an events space equipped with a gourmet demonstration kitchen. A 33-foot-long wood counter here accommodates up to 16 guests in the gracious space where three layers of sliding perforated-metal screens modulate daylight with a shimmering moiré effect. Incorporating his aesthetic vision into every aspect of the project, Kogan tucked tall appliances, storage units, and an audio/video system along an adjacent stainless steel wall, and even added sleek tubular-steel sprinkler heads in the ceiling. Glogowski explains that extensive discussions with a team of seven Japanese engineers responsible for the mechanical services resulted in the flush detailing of the supersized ventilation system installed above the island cooktop.

On a more decorative note, Studio MK27's interior designer, Diana Radomysler, arranged brightly colored cushioned chairs around the dining counter—a whimsical touch that adds a festive note to the room. Eschewing the traditional Brazilian proclivity for marble, Radomysler used a pristine, stonelike quartz composite to give a contemporary feel to kitchens and bathrooms, and selected Cone Lights on tripod stands by British designer Tom Dixon for their nod to the utilitarian lighting equipment typically used by photographers.

Completed in March 2011, Studio SC is doing so well that it has already outgrown the existing premises. The architects recently added a second kitchen on the roof near the stair, inserting it like a plug. The owners have also purchased the adjacent property, where an extension is already under construction for back-of-house support functions for the gourmet kitchen.

With the success of Studio SC, Kogan's roughly 20-person practice has reached a new threshold. After years of designing primarily one-off houses, such as the Bahia House in Salvador, Brazil, and finally earning international acclaim, the firm is now doing larger projects abroad, including a 26-unit housing complex in Madrid and a bungalow hotel in Alentejo, Portugal. With this increase in both scale and geographic spread, Kogan's challenge will be to maintain the level of detail that renders Studio SC such a visual feast.

Hattie Hartman is an editor at London's The Architects' Journal. She previously lived and worked in Brazil.

Cost: $5.8 million

Completion Date: March 2011

Gross Square Footage: 12,500 sq-ft

Architect and Designer:
studio mk27
Al tiete
505. +5511 30813522

September 2012
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