Ur­ban Land­scap­ing

The sprawl­ing city of Sao Paulo of­fers much to ex­plore in its vi­brant art and eclec­tic ar­chi­tec­ture

Business Traveler (USA) - - FRONT PAGE - By Christopher Bean­land

Art and ar­chi­tec­ture in Sao Paulo

If you were in Sao Paulo for busi­ness and wanted to ex­tend your Brazil­ian trip across the week­end, you might be for­given for head­ing for the beaches of Rio de Janeiro. But if you’re a fan of art and ar­chi­tec­ture, then you’re also in the right place. The gallery scene is ex­em­plary, as is the ar­ray of world-class build­ings, and ex­plor­ing it all makes for a fas­ci­nat­ing couple of days’ break be­fore head­ing home.

This youth­ful, rich, stim­u­lat­ing city is enor­mous – the largest in the Amer­i­cas and one of the big­gest on Earth, with a pop­u­la­tion of al­most 20 mil­lion. So it sprawls.

The his­toric down­town dis­trict is Se, while Avenida Paulista to the south is one of the city’s newer busi­ness and cul­tural zones. The area from Avenida Paulista stretch­ing fur­ther south, down­hill to the Par­que Ibi­ra­puera, is where you’ll find most of the sights – al­though this is a city of loosely de­fined neigh­bor­hoods.

The sub­way is lim­ited, so taxis can be the eas­i­est way to get around, al­though be pre­pared to sit in traf­fic.

Paulis­tas like to think they live in the New York of South Amer­ica. Like the Big Ap­ple, Sao Paulo is eth­ni­cally di­verse. It is home to the largest Ja­panese com­mu­nity out­side Ja­pan, mostly based in Liber­dade, where you can get the fresh­est sushi.

Still, it’s the tow­ers along Avenida Paulista that will make you feel as if you’re on Broad­way. The street fol­lows a ridge line with sky­scraper sol­diers stand­ing to at­ten­tion along it – when dark­ness falls, the sight is mes­mer­iz­ing.

Add in the soaring TV masts and in­ces­santly flash­ing red lights as a warn­ing to the he­li­copters that buzz around the tow­ers like bees, and it’s al­most over­pow­er­ing.

Art In­side and Out

The best place to see art in the city – and ar­guably in the whole of Brazil – is MASP, the Mu­seum of Art (1578 Avenida Paulista; open Tues-Sun 10:00 AM – 6:00 PM, 8:00 PM on Thurs; masp.art.br). The 1968 Bru­tal­ist build­ing it­self is the first at­trac­tion. De­signed by Italy’s Lina Bo Bardi – who loved Sao Paulo so much that she made it her home – it sits on four pil­lars and looks a lit­tle like a ro­botic shoe­box on steroids that’s grown legs.

In­side are won­der­ful works by home­grown artists such as Jose Fer­raz de Almeida Ju­nior, one of the coun­try’s lead­ing 19th-cen­tury pain­ters, as well as pieces by Con­sta­ble and Turner. En­try is R$15 ($4), or free on Tues­days and Thurs­day evenings).

The sub­way is also full of pub­lic art. Color­ful mu­rals dec­o­rate the sta­tion at Se, while two stops east at Bras is Amelia Toledo’s in­trigu­ing Kalei­do­scope, a clus­ter of 25 plates of curved steel and plas­tic.

It was NewYork’s il­le­gal sub­way graf­fiti artists that in­flu­enced Sao Paulo’s most fa­mous con­tem­po­rary artists, Os­ge­meos (the Twins), who have painted ev­ery­thing from a com­mu­nity cen­ter in a Sao Paulo favela to one of Brazil­ian air­line GOL’s 737800 air­craft.

Their work ranges from fam­ily por­traits to so­cial-po­lit­i­cal and Brazil­ian folk­lore. Grafitti, by its na­ture, is hard to find – some­times in un­der­passes, then on build­ings, so check for new work on Os­ge­meos com.br/en.

Global Mish­mash

As with Brazil in gen­eral, the pas­sion with which peo­ple live their lives is ev­i­dent in Sao Paulo’s bars, and also in the some­times ri­otous ar­chi­tec­ture the city dis­plays. Its build­ings are about blus­ter and boast­ing – an at­tempt to build man­made land­marks to out­shine Rio’s nat­u­ral ones.

Take the 1961-built Ed­i­fi­cio Copan (200 Ipi­ranga; co­pansp.com.br) in the Re­pub­lica neigh­bor­hood, west of Se. It’s a mas­terly ex­er­cise in “big is bet­ter” from Brazil’s best­known ar­chi­tect, Os­car Niemeyer, who de­signed the dis­tinc­tive build­ings of the cap­i­tal, Brasilia.

From above, this bulky bit of con­crete Bru­tal­ism has the form of a wave. Its 38 floors stretch 460 feet into the sky – yet its shape and brise-soleil sun blinds, which run hor­i­zon­tally along the face of the build­ing, give it an el­e­gance. While mainly apart­ments, and thus off lim­its to visi­tors, you can linger in the wood-pan­eled foyer, where there are bar­bers, shops and a café that serves de­li­cious ice cream.

Luz sta­tion is also worth seek­ing out in the vicin­ity. De­signed by English­man Charles Henry Driver and built by Glaswe­gians at the turn of the 1900s, its Vic­to­rian style and huge size make it a very Bri­tish-look­ing ad­di­tion to the city.

It’s this mish­mash of styles from around the world – Bri­tain, Ja­pan, the US and the Mediter­ranean – that marks Sao Paulo’s ar­chi­tec­ture.

There are also build­ings from ev­ery pe­riod – to­day’s mod­ern city gives way to the older Im­pe­rial Por­tuguese city at Se. The cathe­dral here is beau­ti­ful Gothic, while the hand­some old cof­fee mer­chants’ of­fices and bank­ing halls from

the late 1800s show how the city made its money, sat­is­fy­ing the Euro­pean and North Amer­i­can thirst for a morn­ing cup of cof­fee.

One of the bank­ing halls has been trans­formed into the Caixa Cul­tural (111 Praca da Se; Tues-Sun 9:00 AM – 9:00 PM, free; pro­gra­m­as­cul­tur­ais­caixa.com.br), which sta stages trav­el­ing ex­hi­bi­tions.

Se is th the old money of Sao Paulo, and Jardins is the new. This is the most pleas­ant part of th the city to wan­der around. From MASP, st stroll through the bu­colic Par­que Tri­anon, then down­hill on Alameda Casa Branca, p past hip bou­tiques, car show­rooms, cock­tail b bars and trendy eater­ies.

Two ho ho­tels stand out in Jardins. Both are de­sig de­sign gems with ex­cel­lent food and ser­vice. TheT first is the Emil­iano (384 Rua Os­car Fre Freire; emil­iano.com.br), housed in a skyscra sky­scraper that boasts a rooftop he­li­pad to whisk guests to the air­port or to a polo es­tan­cia u up­coun­try.

The ot other is Ho­tel Unique (4700 Avenida Bri­gadeir Bri­gadeiro Luis An­to­nio; hotelu­nique.com. br). Part o of the De­sign Ho­tels col­lec­tion, its rooms and pub­lic spa­ces are pure min­i­mali min­i­mal­ist class, while the rooftop pool bar is the per­fect place to enjoy a cock­tail with co-work­ers and lo­cals.

The build­ing it­self – a dis­tinc­tive sil­ver semi-cir­cle perched on pil­lars – was de­signed by Ruy Oh­take, one of the city’s best-known ar­chi­tects. His mother was Ja­panese artist Tomie Oh­take. In 2001, he built a gallery in her honor, the In­sti­tuto Tomie Oh­take, to cel­e­brate the city’s in­her­ited Ja­panese and Oriental cul­ture (201 Avenida Faria Lima; open Tues-Sun 11:00 AM – 8:00 PM; free; in­sti­tu­to­tomieo­htake.org.br). Lo­cated in the cool Pin­heiros dis­trict, it’s a riot of de­con­structed pur­ple and pink ban­ners.

Across from the Unique is Ibi­ra­puera park, the city’s gi­ant green lung, which opened in 1954 to cel­e­brate Sao Paulo’s 400th an­niver­sary. In ad­di­tion to ex­plor­ing its lush gar­dens, you can visit MAM, the Mu­seum of Mod­ern Art, which is lo­cated here (open Tues-Sun 10:00 AM – 6:00 PM; R$6/$1.50, free on Sun­days; mam.org.br). It boasts works by Miro, Cha­gall and Pi­casso as well as Brazil­ian mod­ernists.

The park is also home to the Ja­panese and Bi­en­nial pav­il­ions – the lat­ter an­other Os­car Niemeyer cre­ation. So, too, is the show-stop­ping Au­di­to­rio Ibi­ra­puera (Avenida Pe­dro Al­vares Cabral; au­di­to­ri­oibi­ra­puera.com.br), which looks like a side­ways slice of wed­ding cake with a red dragon’s tongue pok­ing out. Like Sao Paulo, it’s an at­ten­tion seeker that you can’t stop look­ing at.

Food & Drink

TERRACO ITALIA Built in 1965, this restau­rant in the Re­pub­lica dis­trict fea­tures kitsch, gen­tle­man’s club-style dé­cor and has an out­door ter­race over­look­ing the city 42 floors be­low – per­fect for sun­down­ers.

En­trees R$80-121 ($20-$31), cock­tails R$20 (%5). Open Mon-Fri 12:00 PM – 3:00 PM, 7:00 PM – 12:00 AM (Sat un­til 1:00 AM), Sun 12:00 PM – 4:00 PM, 7:00 PM – 11:00 PM. 344 Avenida Ipi­ranga; tel +55 112 1892 929; ter­ra­coitalia.com.br FIGUEIRA RUBAIYAT There’s a huge tree grow­ing in the mid­dle of Figueira, hence the name (it means fig tree). This Jardins eatery is al­ways pop­u­lar, thanks to the re­laxed, out­door din­ing and the fish scooped from the Ama­zon and tossed over the Brazil­ian grill.

Mains R$61-102 ($16-$26). Open Mon-Thurs 12:00 PM – 12:30 AM, Fri-Sat un­til 1:00 AM, Sun un­til 12:00 AM. 1738 Rua Had­dock Lobo; tel +55 113 0871 399; rubaiyat.com.br MAM RESTAU­RANT Fin­ish your visit at MAM with a trip to its restau­rant, which serves a light lunch of Brazil­ian del­i­ca­cies such as palm hearts and mashed corn, as well as sal­ads. Grab a ta­ble by the win­dow, over­look­ing the sculp­tures in the gar­den.

Buf­fet lunch R$49 ($13). Open Tues-Sun 11:00 AM – 4:00 PM. Par­que Ibi­ra­puera; tel +55 115 0851 306; mam.org.br BT

Clockise: Ho­tel Unique, Mu­seum of Sao Paulo, In­sti­tuto Tomie Oh­take

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