Cultural Arena – Cancer Hospital in Barretos
Paula Dal Maso
THE CITY OF BARRETOS
The city of Barretos, 110,000 inhabitants, is located 440 km north of Sao Paulo city. Although belonging to the State of Sao Paulo, Barretos has its own cultural trait forged on rural basis whose origin goes back to the foundation of the city 180 years ago and it is profoundly linked with the culture of cattle raising and cowboys. Nowadays that rural tradition roots became a massive event, the Barretos Rodeo Festival gathers about one million people every year.
THE BARRETOS CANCER HOSPITAL
Fifty years ago a couple of young doctors, Paulo Prata e Scylla Duarte Prata, graduated from the University of São Paulo, decided to move from Sao Paulo to Barretos and establish their practice there. They found a small hospital called Sao Judas, about 2,000m² , which would be the keystone of the Barretos Cancer Hospital. Since 1989, Paulo Prata, the son of the founders and a successful business man, joined temporarily to his father restructuring financially the institution. Paulo Prata was caught by the cause to which his father had been dedicated his whole life and decide to stay permanently at his position managing each new step of the growing process of that small hospital. The result is impressive due to its numbers: facilities buildings have grown about 70 times, reaching 140,000m² nowadays and receiving yearly people from more than 2,500 cities [which mean almost fifty percent of entire cities in the country]. It is even more impressive due to its humanitarian meaning, because no one single patient has to pay for any treatment, the hospital is fully afforded by donations [most part] and SUS [the Brazilian government for public health system]. In Brazil this is really remarkable. Donations link the Barretos Cancer Hospital to the Barretos Rodeo Festival, besides, of course, many others.
It is right at this point that we were invited to design this Museum. The invitation came from a board [composed by Ivanise Calil, Bruno Assami, Alexandre Loureiro and also Henrique Moraes Prata] who had the goal of proposing a program and also selecting an architect to design the building.
The site where the building is located measures 35m wide and 180m long. Its short west façade meets the public street, the city itself, while the short east façade is attached to an important protect green area, the longitudinal north neighbor is the Children’s Cancer Hospital and the south one is building which provides twenty apartment for the families of those children under treatment.
The entire program of this new building covers 4,800m² , dedicated to promote and disseminate knowledge in particular on sciences mostly focusing prevention on childhood cancer. Thus, there are four main characters that make up the building, four facilities program, or institutions that were shaped through architectural history in order to promote dialogue and support the purpose of knowledge exchange:  exhibition space;  auditorium;  library and  multipurpose classrooms. Although these four main program have been combined into one single building, each one of them has its individuality preserved and they have a clear expression even from outside, in such a way that a visitor can infer the activities inside.
The building is spread out in both horizontally, 120m long, and vertically, three floors high. The ground level was preserved of any entrance or function directly connected to that level. A visitor, who approaches from any side, is intuitively guided under the pilotis and toward the reflecting pool at the center. From that point a pair of stairs invite to the accueil plaza, a 30x30m underground patio, which welcomes everyone with a café and restaurant, an information desk and a museum store. From that point visitors are guided to each single destination: exhibition space and auditorium at that same level; or library and multipurpose classrooms above the ground. Exhibition space and auditorium explores the required verticality as linking the three levels of the building.
Sustainable issues were a requirement for the board that was for sure embraced by the design team. The building has to perform according to the current goals for energy consumption, environmental aware, low cost of maintenance, social meaning, ethical standard.
This project is fully eligible to receive the approval of the Brazilian Culture Ministry for fund raising, which makes it qualified to offer tax benefits for those donators.
Besides, the architecture of this building has a very high level of symbolic requirement: a link for the whole community at the Barretos Cancer Hospital; a face to provide an identity for the monumental work made by that institution.