São Pedro Psyco Hospital

From Invisibility to Integration


AUTHOR: Carol Vasques
PLACE: Porto Alegre, Brazil
YEAR: 2017
STATUS: Unbuilt
INSTAGRAM: @_carolvasques


INTRODUCTION. The stigmatization of mental illness is an old process dating back to the end of the eighteenth century when madness comes to be perceived as a disease that can be studied and treated. Asylums are used throughout the world as spaces of social control, preventing inmates from coming into contact and being seen by society. Invisibility was the main purpose of these spaces.

“São Pedro Psychiatric Hospital: From Invisibility to Integration” is about architecture and its capacity to deconstruct stigmas, re-signify spaces and to promote integration at all levels. It is about converting history and spatiality into a learning tool allowing life to manifest.

THE CITY AND ITS ISLAND. The São Pedro Psychiatric Hospital is located in an important city node of Porto Alegre. Despite the great accessibility of the area, São Pedro’s site does not share the same level of integration due to its blocks monumental dimensions and lack of permeability. The Hospital’s Complex acts as an island within the city.

The complex consists of 41 buildings, of which 5 are listed as being historically important and in need of a restoration process. The buildings were constructed in an unorganized and unplanned way and a great majority is abandoned or even unfinished. In order to allow the expansion and entrance of the existing urban tissue into the Hospitals site, the remaining 38 buildings are removed.

A void is created enabling the existing streets to be extended and connected. A new urban tissue arises reducing by half the dimensions of the block and increasing its permeability. The historical facades that once were hidden from the citizens now can be seen.

Bridges are built into the island; the hospital becomes part of the city.

THE ARCHITECTURE OF VALUES. São Pedro is an unfinished project, only half of the original plan was built. The original project was drawn following the Panopticon architectural typology; surveillance, control and isolation can be seen through its construction and site’s location. Architecture is not merely functional; it reflects a system of values and beliefs established by the psychiatric treatment of the period.

In order to change these values it is necessary to break with its architecture.

An axis is established marking the void left by the lack of the original main entrance. A series of porticos limit and conduct the public through the new access. The panopticum logic is reversed: the entrance that once led to an enclosed building that was a dead end for the great majority of the patients, now leads to an open and free space in which you can see the way out at the moment you come in.

A mixed-use approach is sought to ensure not only the economic viability of the project as the liveliness of the area. The hospital becomes scenario to a Center of Coexistence and Culture (one of the main tools of the Brazilian Government to ensure integration between the society and the patients), a Cultural Center and an Office building.

A new annex is proposed at the second floor marking symbolically the missing half of the hospital and housing the Cultural Center. The historical building contains in its first floor the Center of Coexistence and Culture and at the second floor private office areas.  The frontal setback is transformed into three large squares: a contemplation, civic and garden square allow varied uses of the space and preserve the monumentality of the Hospital.

It is created an architecture against the framework of exclusion and invisibility. Lightness, openness, permeability and integration are its new values.


Below, a series of images of technical drawings: planimetries, elevation, axonometry.


Carol Vasques is an architect with a Bachelor of Architecture degree from UFRGS, Brazil. She has several international working experiences, which range from participating and organizing international architecture workshops in Italy, Argentina and Brazil to studying Spatial Planning at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands.

She has worked with several Brazilian architecture studios and now is a partner at a graphic representation studio and at an online platform focused on female architects. During her free time she works as a Jewelry Designer developing handcrafted and personalized jewelry.   Nowadays she plans to move abroad and continue her work as an architect and freelancer designer.

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