Folha de S.Paulo > Ilustrada > August 27th, 1991
Only Christo Might Save São Paulo’s Architecture
In addition to being the ugliest, São Paulo takes the cake as the most fun city I know. Its major joke is its architecture. An architecture that no longer thrills, yet, incredibly enough, still communicates: it is so ridiculous it makes one laugh. Evidently, it is not the clever smile, yet the easy laughter. Starting from its various architectural styles: utopist, vernacular, post-modernist, bureaucratic, erotic, messianic, fundamentalist, cybernetic, neo-fascist, metaphysical, etc., architecture, in São Paulo , closely resembles Epcot Center’s – in the bad sense, that is.
Here, there are also buildings representative of civilized countries. There are the French- inspired and named, neoclassical in style, that make their dwellers feel as if in Paris. Nothing better than to leave one of their flats to enter one of those restaurants bearing a French name and continue imagining, inside, that something resembling French food is served within.
Still in this wonderland, we see the sober and elegant façades of English-style buildings. We have the clear feeling of being in London. If your building is located close to Roosevelt Square, try to walk there, and you will certainly feel in Hampstead Heath. The only problem might lye in the fact not a single tulip can be found in the place – yet, after all, who needs them?
If your building, in its turn, is located in the Jardins area, walk to Marginal Pinheiros freeway, trying to figure the window in your building from which Turner used to paint. Not to mention the “designer” buildings, any Maison by some international couturier, perfect for those wearing Pucci, Ricci, or Gucci, whose architecture can be worse than its haut-couture models.
Yet, for those who were already fed up with the round corners of the Mediterranean-style buildings which overwhelmed our city, now pay attention to the proliferation of jutting buildings, in which there is not a single straight-angled wall. Bedrooms, living rooms, kitchens and bathrooms are now full of corners, chamfered walls, and juts. All furniture must be designed to fit those triangular spaces. Cut-crystal glasses and clothes purchased at outlet shops are welcome. If the dwellers are privileged enough, they will see one of these new and accurate street clocks – also beveled in shape – placed in front of their apartment, perfectly matching their building’s architecture.
Prince Charles of England, who had already demonstrated all his sensibility when picking Rita Lee as his favorite rock singer, has wisely made his contribution against modern architecture by saying: “If a building cannot express itself, how can we understand it?”
Sometimes, poor architecture tries to express itself, but there seems to be no-one willing to hear. Let’s just look at the cosmetic operation clinics around the city. All it takes is for us to pay attention to their hideous banners. What will those surgeons not do to the face of the ladies seeking them, once they were able to do such atrocities to the façades of their own clinics?
There are also those works of art who want to say something, but just cannot, or those whose projects do speak out – but only say non-sense. In those cases, the solution would be to request the city’s Historic Heritage Council to continue, in addition to assigning historical value to buildings worth preserving, to tear down all the rest, in the literal sense of the word.
If, at the end, that is not possible, all that is left to do is pray. Ask Christo to save us. The Bulgarian, evidently.
Folha de S.Paulo
August 27th, 1991