Law School Library Competition | São Paulo


The Law Academy of São Paulo was founded in 1827 as a key institution to the development of the nation, located at XVI’s century Convent at Largo São Francisco, at the historic city centre. It was in the 1930’s that a monumental neo-colonial building was designed to accommodate the University and its Library, which collection dates from 1825. Today such Library became small for the University’s collection, and the need for a new space resulted in this competition.

The brief was to renovate a nearby building, in order to adequate it to a library use. Special attention was to be given to: the quality of the reading areas, spatial flexibility, capacity to store books and future acquisitions (currently 160 thousand items), accessibility, and low maintenance requirements. A façade retrofit was also requested.

Considering the limited dimensions of the building ,13m wide and 25m deep (10 storey high), and the need to store a large numbers of books, the first design strategy was to occupy the existing ventilation void(10m x 5m), creating a new structure that would support the bookshelves, in order not to overload the existing structure. This new core would expand and contract according to the number of books to be placed in each library, and the perimeter areas would be left as reading spaces, taking advantage of the natural light and ventilation.

The second strategy was to group and distribute spaces according to who could access them. Therefore the ground and underground level were open to the public, which uses include plaza, coffee shop, garden, multimedia room and auditorium. The check in area and multipurpose room were located at a glass box located just above the street level, with great visibility inviting pedestrians to enter the library. The floors above contained a more specific content and the last two floors were allocated for administrative use. This program distribution also allowed for an economy in the use of lifts, as the most demanded floors were defined as closer to the ground.

The third strategy was to wrap the building with a smart envelope that permitted ventilation, light, views and solar protection, through the uses of louvers that were placed more densely or more spaced out according to the aimed utilization of the space. This skin also allowed for façade maintenance and carried plumbing for air conditioning units, where needed.

The building was designed with a sustainable approach, using natural ventilation, solar panels, wind turbines and water recycling system.