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Estevão Silva da Conceição, Casa de Pedra [House of Stone]

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Visiting Information

The Casa de Pedra is open for public viewing for a modest fee. Reservations in advance are suggested: +(11) 3773-7135.

 

About the Artist/Site

Born in the interior of Bahia in the town of Santo Estevão, Estevão Silva da Conceição attended school through fourth grade and then quit, at age ten, to begin working as a farmer. At age 19, he moved to São Paulo, where he first worked as a bricklayer in the outskirts of the city and then as a gardener in the city proper. Among his positions he served as a gardener in a luxury condominium, surrounded by manicured vegetation. Yet his own home, the Casa de Pedra, on which he has been working since 1985, is both conceptually and aesthetically on the other end of the spectrum. 

A cross between a magic castle and an elaborate tree house with a garden suspended in the ceiling, the project began slowly and without any preconception that it would become so elaborate. He first planted a rose bush, which flourished so beautifully that he began transforming two little shacks already on the property – one of brick and one of wood – around the roses in order to not impede their growth. He then planted additional bushes, again working around them in such a way that his constructions contained no straight lines or walls.

Silva da Conceição began with a wooden infrastructure, but later replaced it with iron, so as to provide greater strength. While his initial idea of planting a rose garden on the exterior of his property was overtaken by his obsessive construction on the interior, the garden and plants remained important to his overall conceptualization. In addition to the bushes embedded directly into the soil, he also had many planters that he wished to hang; he therefore began to form low structural arches, with a mason’s shovel and a bucket, layering concrete mortar over a wire infrastructure and then ornamenting them with thousands of found objects, from which he could hang planters of flowers and plants – over 500 at last count. The ornamentation of these arches – as well as of the walls, ceilings, floors, shelves, and all other interior component of the house – includes many objects of cast-off industrial detritus, from telephones to security cameras and cell phones, which have lost their function and instead were utilized for their formalist values. These materials were joined by doll’s heads, bottle caps, broken and whole tiles and ceramics, rocks, plastic jewelry, watches and clocks, glass beads, marbles, and all kinds of trinkets. He buys from or trades some of these materials with little bazaars or occasionally finds them on the street or in the dumps. He continues to change the decoration daily. 

Silva da Conceição built the Casa de Pedra on a piece of property that measures some 75 square meters (about 807 square feet); rooms are small, with low arched ceilings, and the corridors are narrow, but he, his wife Edilene Souza Conceição, and their two children, Stefana and Enrique, enjoy living there. To reach the upper levels, one must hoist oneself up on aluminum ladders such as those found in swimming pools. The building reaches some 8 meters (26 feet) tall, and on the rooftop, his vocational training is again evident, as sculptures constructed from trunks and branches weave among over fifty species of plants. From this rooftop garden one enjoys panoramic views of the favela, home to some 70,000 residents.

While he is now known as the Brazilian Gaudí, Silva da Conceição had not been aware of the work of the Catalan architect until he was taken to Barcelona by a Brazilian documentary filmmaker in 2001, supported through the Fundació Gaudí. It completely surprised him. Ultimately, a documentary on this Brazilian self-taught builder was completed, and he gained wide press when a book was published on his work in 2007.

The Casa de Pedra is open for public viewing for a modest fee. Reservations in advance are suggested: +(11) 3773-7135.

~Jo Farb Hernández

 

Map and site information

38 Rua Herbert Spencer
São Paulo, São Paulo, Brazil
Latitude/Longitude: -23.616201 / -46.720105

Visiting Information

The Casa de Pedra is open for public viewing for a modest fee. Reservations in advance are suggested: +(11) 3773-7135.

 

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