How to insert Belo Horizonte’s City Hall into a symbolic and historical axis of this city? Is it possible to praise the urban void of this thoroughfare whilst filling it up rather than preserving it? Could its site — a transportation hub with an underground station, BRT terminals, and an interstate bus station — become the solution for all of the Center’s dislocations, congestions and failures? This proposal assumes a position that explores this contradiction: a new building as a compliment to an urban void and as a way to restructure a frayed urban fabric.
Formally, the BH City Hall is divided into two as if broken by the avenue running through it, occupying it and releasing it simultaneously. The building departs from a geometric language that exploits reverse lines: in response to the axis, a diagonal slit opens up between the two parts, recalling the recurrent language of abstract diagonals in the neoconcrete sculptures of such artists as Amilcar de Castro, Lygia Clark and Franz Weissmann scattered throughout the city’s squares.
In this reading of a context in-between public art and urban design, we’ve also considered the sculpture “Freedom in Balance” (1982) by another neoconcrete artist, Mary Vieira. Framing the avenue, this work is an element that embodies the void whilst implying the importance of the distant Sierra do Curral to the cityscape, both the Sierra and the sculpture being fundamental references in the building’s design. Its diagonal language is a result of the displacement of four vertices of the main volume. It is precisely this displacement which outlines a triangular slit between the two buildings, referring the iconography of the new City Hall to another nearby sculpture (“Monument to Peace”, the vertical triangle at Pope’s Square), the city’s original 19th-century urban plan, and the iconic triangle on the City’s flag.