Sebrae National Head Office, Brasília-DF

Patio, circumscribed sky.

The patio is the slope down which the sky flows into the house.

Jorge Luis Borges

This design responds to Brasilia’s planning constraints -including the topographic features- and also the nature of the architecture desired for Sebrae’s new national head office. What we propose is not so much a building as an architectural complex with: 1) an emphasis on interior spatiality, aimed at integrating users, the built environment and the natural landscape; 2) maximum flexibility for office organization, and 3) optimized environmental and economic performance.

Patio. The whole complex is developed on the basis of its interior spatiality. On the plan, the void has a powerful presence inside the complex, taking the form of a patio for the most public activities. Around this courtyard, the education and training rooms, multipurpose rooms, auditorium, library and cafeteria are located on the lower ground level, while the main entrances to the complex are on the upper level, with balconies facing the city and Lake Paranoá.

Topography and spatial sense: multiplied ground floor and distribution of the program. The arrangement of the program coincides directly with the layout of the buildings on the allotment. Collective functions and activities involving consultants and the general public are located at the base of the complex (lower and upper ground floors). These spaces are organized and articulated by the patio, and highlighted by the presence of the auditorium. The administration and management spaces are concentrated on the upper floors, while the building service and maintenance divisions are on the lower floors.

Offices: modularity and flexibility. The workspace design permits variable layouts for the spaces themselves and also for the building facilities and infrastructure: technical floors, suspended ceilings and the absence of pillars in the centre of the floor. The area available for office space is thus truly free.

Articulation, circulation and infra-structure. In order to connect all sectors, a double peripheral structure was built, consisting of two “castles” for vertical circulation, infrastructure and support resources, with multiple connection possibilities. Stairways, verandas and public or private elevators all facilitate communication between the diverse spaces and levels. The central space is part of the circulation design for daily routes, thus accentuating its presence. All the infrastructure networks are distributed through hollow surfaces (technical floors and suspended ceilings) and special-purpose vertical ducts.

Architectural expression. The architectural expression of the proposed complex is closely linked to the design choices. They converge to provide a well-organized, efficient structure and a strategic reduction of building work. The structures are treated and exposed, revealing the plasticity of the steel and concrete. The metal brise-soleil panel structure shelters the complex. Overall, the natural colours of the building materials will contrast with the white metal structure, while the blue sky will contrast with the surrounding green environment.

The complex has an open ground floor plan, permitting elongated visuals that underscore the possibility of extending the public area without compromising the height permitted by regulations that protect Brasília’s skyline. Finally, the gentle curve of the service core on the north side enables part of the grounds to be released to the city, marking the unique nature of this construction, which strives to be neither isolated nor palace-like, but rather a convergent, multiplying part of the city, its history, and its life.