SESC Pompeia – Concrete Oasis

SESC Pompeia is a cultural centre in the east zone of São Paulo, designed by the architect Lina Bo Bardi, and opened in 1982. The site is one of the world’s great democratic spaces in a city often lacking in them. The level of thoughtfulness and sense of place is on par with great buildings like the Royal Festival Hall on London’s Southbank.

The complex is a collection of renovated and purpose built structures on a former factory site in central São Paulo. The concept behind the project was the culmination of Bo Bardi’s experiences with local culture from her arrival from Italy in 1946, resulting in a truly Brazilian architecture. The buildings are “popular appropriations” of existing space, materially they are constructed strictly within the constraints of the time, as cheaply and robustly as possible. The centre contains reading rooms, community classrooms, popular restaurants and bars, theatre and a vertical sports complex.

It is a concrete oasis in a concrete jungle & anyone visiting São Paulo for the first time should add this to their itinerary, there is a continuous cultural and arts program with music and exhibitions.

SESC Pompeia on the web

Photographed by Louis Smith


By Louis Smith

Formerly Brasil based, London trained architect and writer. Louis studied Political Science before moving into Architecture. Louis has been studying, thinking and writing about Brazil for over 15 years and spent a period living in Buenos Aires in 2002. Specialist areas of interest include Brazilian development, urbanism and architecture.