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Downtown Sao Paulo

19 June 2011
by Vicky Richardson

When I was at Blueprint we regularly worked with a photographer Leonardo Finotti who lives in Sao Paulo. Leo introduced me to Diogo de Oliveira who runs a cultural tour agency, SP Bureau. I can really recommend Diogo's tour of downtown Sao Paulo. We only had an hour, but managed to take in the amazing Copan Building (Niemeyer, 1951), and many of the older Galleria - indoor shopping halls - which often combine housing, shops, cages and art galleries.
The Copan is the most remarkable of them. The facade curves dramatically, the shape accentuated by the brises-soleil. There are around 2000 flats (not surprisingly many architects live here) and at ground level shops, a cinema and restaurants. One of the aspects I enjoyed most about it was the internal landscape, a swooping corridor lined with small shops. Interior landscapes are in architectural-vogue today (think of SANAA's Lausanne building), but ramps and inclined ground planes are very much a feature of 1950s Brazilian architecture - particularly Niemeyer.
The last image here shows a mosaic pavement in downtown Sao Paulo. Apparently in the 1960s the city ran a competition for a new design and it was won by a resident who came up with a pattern based on the shape of the state of Sao Paulo. Wouldn't this be a great idea for London?