When the owners of this breathtaking, two-floor apartment in Vila Nova Conceição, an upscale neighbourhood in Sao Paolo, Brazil, commissioned Brazilian architect Fernanda Marques of Fernanda Marques Arquitetos Associados to renovate their home, they asked for two things: adequate space to properly display their burgeoning art collection and a swimming pool. Although very different in nature, Marques saw that both requests represented a fundamental desire to surround oneself with visual stimuli and as such the pool was designed not just for swimming but also for viewing. And that’s how this unique apartment, evocatively called Panorama, ended up having a swimming pool right in the middle of the living room.
Separated by 8cm-thick bonded glass panels, the slender, 10-metre-long pool stretches along the entire length of the double-height living room, functioning in effect as a peculiar aquarium, only instead of tropical fish or dolphins swimming in the turquoise waters, you can watch someone you know twirl, spin and glide underwater. This exceptionally surreal sensation is enhanced by the lush vegetation that grows on top of the pool making it more of an art installation and indeed less of a swimming pool.
The modernist interiors embody a minimalist aesthetic of clean, marble surfaces, neutral tones and an eclectic selection of furniture by mid-century Brazilian designers such as Joaquim Tenreiro and Zanine de Caldas, an ideal backdrop for the owners’ art collection which includes highly respected artists such as Ernesto Neto, Edgard de Souza, Manoel Rio Branco, Zerbini and Tunga. As Marques explains, "I didn’t want the furniture to overwhelm the works of art, but rather to serve as support and counterpoint to them”. Distributed throughout the main spaces, each individual artwork is thoughtfully displayed with the help of large, unobstructed wall surfaces as well as a dedicated “gallery” space next to the dining area where track lighting can be adapted as the collection evolves.
The double-height living room is needless to say the heart of the apartment, adjoined on the same level by the open-plan dining room and kitchen, and the master and guest bedrooms, a gym and an office on the first floor. This being the home of a couple with no children, the master bedroom takes centre stage. Designed as domestic “dress circle”, it enjoys great views of the living room below, including the pool, as well as the plant-draped patio beyond, while easily reclaiming its privacy courtesy of folding white panels. It also has direct access to the pool through an adjoining terrace from where the couple can dive right in. The pool is also reached from the lower floor via the patio's all-white switchback staircase that leads to an elevated deck.
As the architect confesses, "building the pool structure was the most challenging aspect in the project", both in terms of design and construction, yet “looking back, I think it was well worth it”. And by the looks of the apartment’s stunning interiors, it surely was.