So since I’ve last written anything real I have been up to a whole bunch of stuff. Spring break was a whirlwind and since I got back its been constant work. But lets go back to spring break. My trip to me for Brazil to New York to my mom’s wedding and another big event.
Let’s start with Brazil. It’s amazing; the culture, the landscape, the architecture, the women, the food, the weather. It has everything that is lacking in London. We first went to Sao Paulo, where our project is. Its a huge city of 23 million people (that’s more than all of Romania). Its the richest and poorest city in South America at the same time. It has the largest private helicopter fleet in the world and some of the largest slums (called “favelas”).
As you can see in the picture above it is full of skyscapers, though I can’t say the y have a skyline as they are so ubiquitous. But as you walk around the city you don’t feel them everywhere. As opposed to New York the buildings are generally set back from the street and from each other creating a porous landscape that lets light through. The streets are filled with car s as you can imagine, but what was nice being a tourist is that the occupied taxis get to use the bus lanes.
Orignaly I planned to stay from the 15th to the 27th of March, but it was so nice I extended my stay through t eh following weekend to the 31st, that’s how much I liked it. I got there one day after most others, but got caught up by the nend. We visited the site the first day and it was pretty nasty, a run park and big open bus station next to he old center. It was Sunday and the area was deserted. But we returned there on a weekday and the pedestrian area in the old center was actually very busy, though our site was still deserted. Its surrounded by flyovers and highways with large roads cutting it in every directions. I didn’t put any pictures because its not worth it (I’ll show you the site when we have something to put there;).
The highlights of Sao Paulo were the meetings we had with local architects. First we met Melo Franco who talked to us about a project he did called Watery Voids about the flooding in Sao Paulo, which also happens on our site. He was a student and had worked for the second architect we met, which was the highlight of our trip. Paulo Mendes De La Rocha who won the Pritzker Prize a few years ago. He also has a bus station designed on our site. It was supposed to be temporary, built in 1996, to be torn down in 2006, but hte n he won the Pritzker and I think they decided not to take it down. He is from the generation of Oscar Niemeyer and had a great explanation of the Copan building by Niemeyer, where he talked about hte building which a curved in plan is based on a structural necessity rather than the shape of a woman’s body as many critics have suggested. The irony of this was that at the entrance of the building with Rocha’s office was a drawing by Niemeyer of a woman as a building. Also when we first got there and my teammate Rafeal introduced us (he had organized the meeting) Paulo thought that I was the professor and offer me a chair. I think this only added to Yusuke’s frustration as during the talk Yusuke could not stop himself from contradicting La Rocha, finally declaring that the session was done.
Paulo and Rafael
We also met with a couple of schools. One was an undergraduate program which had been set up about 10 years ago, more experimental. Yusuke gave a presentation and then we talked a little bit about our work. The students seems curious (some mouths were dropped) but the professors seemed to want us to leave and not corrupt the students minds. THeo the university was the largest in Sao Paulo and one of hte professors had gone to the AA for a masters though not DRL. Yusuke wasn’t there and we just talked. This time the students weren’t interested and the professor was more engaged and actually critical of the DRL. But I think it was interesting to talk to them, they all provided good information about the area of the city we will be working in.
There were also some architectural highlight. Like this community center, sorry about the picture quality, trust me the building was much better. We also saw a lot of Niermeyer, like the Latin American Memorial, Parque Iberica, and the previously mention Copan building, to which we went to the top of, or the Itatlia, where we had Caipirinia’s (we also went to the top of Hotel Unique, which is shaped like a watermelon, and had a drink there). Brazilian architecture is very free. First of a ll there are no earthquakes so they can do any sort a structural gymnastics they want. Also the weather is nice most of the time so outdoor spaces are used if well designed. The interesting thing is other than Niemeyer’s signature style there was no unifying look to the rest of Sau Paulo. It was a mixture of things from everywhere (just like the people, who only spoke Portuguese, but had the features of people from 4 continents).
The neighborhood we stayed in was real nice, at the end Gardins Paulista, a wealthy part of town full of designer stores. There we found a pizza place that we frequented because of its foosball and beautiful ladies.
Also down the street was a churascaria where I ate on my last night in Brazil. Its the type of place where they bring around skewers of meat until you tell them to stop. (Went to one last night here in London, it was almost as good).