With 12 million residents, the sprawling metropolis of São Paulo is the biggest city in South America … and definitely one of the most dynamic. It boasts four business districts, 39 municipalities and hundreds of neighborhoods, wealthy and poor, covered with flourishing trees and flowers. It’s no wonder Paulistanos say it takes a lifetime to truly understand the hyper-pulse of Brazil’s fast-moving city.
In recent years, São Paulo added so many innovative architectural structures to its stunning early- to mid- century residential and commercial districts, travelers to Rio de Janeiro began cutting short their time in that city to hop on one-hour commuter flights to experience São Paulo. Sexy new samba and juice bars, colorful cultural spaces and sharp-looking mixed-use projects seem to pop up overnight, and taking an architecture and design tour provides a feast for the senses.
Around SP, in business for 10 years, offers its own creative itineraries for small groups or will customize special-interest tours. “We assist individuals and groups, and we are able to accept reservations with just 24 hours’ notice,” said Luis Simardi, partner/owner, Around SP. “Our Architecture Tour can be more general, where we will show the visitor the diversity of styles and architects that exist in our city, or we can focus on a specific architect or style.” Depending on the sites visited, Around SP will use vehicles or organize walking tours.
The architecture tour stops at several Oscar Niemeyer structures. Niemeyer, Brazil’s most famous architect, died in 2012 at the age of 105, and his Brutalist-style buildings include the iconic 1966 Copan Building, a 38-story residential building with a curving façade located close to art galleries that often occupy other modernist, mid- century edifices.
Around SP can show visitors the Museum of Art São Paulo, a mid-1960s glass-and-concrete gem designed by Lina Bo Bardi. The museum itself offers a wonderful collection of European and Latin American art; it lies close to Vila Madalena, a trendy neighborhood with restaurants and boutiques and an amazing amount of street art. Zoning laws in this district restrict building heights to eight floors, and São Paulo’s top architectural studios like Triptyque, Isay Weinfeld and Andrade Morettin have projects here.
The striking IMS Paulista building, designed for Instituto Moreira Salles, one of Brazil’s largest cultural institutions, opened in 2017. Rising seven double-height stories, the Andrade Morettin Arquitetos Associados design houses a collection of photography, literature, visual arts and Brazilian music events.
Visitors should not miss the aptly named, six-story Hotel Unique, opened in 2002. Designed by São Paulo architect Ruy Ohtake, the modern building features an inverted arc, and the Italian-made circular windows contribute to its distinctiveness. The sophisticated rooftop Skye Bar lounge and pool offers great views of Ibirapuera Park and the São Paulo skyline.
The 21-story Fasano hotel opened in 2003, an architectural icon by Isay Weinfeld and Marcio Kogan, mixing 1930s style with travertine marble walls and an English brick façade. If time allows, ask Around SP to add Livraria Cultura at Iguatemi Center to your tour. Few visitors know about this cultural bookshop, beautifully designed by Marcio Kogan. Although most books are in Portuguese, stop in for coffee or snacks, admire the interior and strike up a conversation with locals perusing the shelves. It’s a good way to begin to understand this colorful and exciting city.
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