Almost every fibreglass phone dome A.K.A. ‘orelhão grande’ or ‘big ears’ has a lining of little paper stickers. They of course advertise the services of prostitutes- unremarkable for any city, however it’s the very unremarkable nature of the adverts that are curious. Always text based and in a limited range of fonts and colours the format is always the same 4 x 2.5 cm rectangle, occasionally and only in Centro, the stickers come in a larger version. Never any photographs- unlike in Rio where the ads are almost exclusively so. The stickers are removed by municipal workers though not as frequently as they men who visit the ‘ears’ to replenish the lining as methodically as bees visiting flowers. The use of only text gives a greater distance to the business and allows for a enjoyment of the language which is rich in common parlance, whilst the strength of the descriptions vary across the city providing a portrait of the locality as well as the lady. (Liberdade)
A figure of Brazilian folklore said to specialise in mischief and be exceptionally agile. All kinds of superstition abounds featuring this popular monopod such as taking his red cap (reputed as exceptionally smelly) will get you wishes and if you should be chased by him he can be evaded by dropping a rope full of knots, which he can’t resist stopping to untangle. Even for the scientific community in Brazil the character has a compelling attraction with a one legged dinosaur fossil, a ‘jumping’ genetic element and a pair of satellites all named ‘Saci’.
The Lanchonete Da Cidade is a retro diner in Paulista. The decor is 50′s American diner with the tropical twist on modernism that Brazil does so well. The perforated ceramic bricks which form the facade are made in Brazil, in a style which both resonates with Portuguese Baroque and Palm Springs. (Al. Tiete/ R. Augusta)
‘Every fine summer night, television sets can be seen outdoors, used publicly, on the busy old sidewalks of East Harlem. Each machine, its extension cord run along the sidewalk from some store’s electric outlet, is the informal headquarters spot of a dozen or so men who divide their attention among the machine, the children they are in charge of, their cans of beer, each others’ comments and the greetings of passers-by.’ – Jane Jacobs, Life and Death of Great American Cities
Jacobs then goes on to propose installing tv sets in park playgrounds to encourage greater use. In Sao Paulo outdoor sets are common on the streets, in street stalls, taxi points and in this case at a bus stop. The Summer nights here have frequent downpours and the TVs are sheltered in little houses.
Looking over Cemitério São Paulo, one of the smaller of the cities 22 cemeteries covering 104,000 sqm an area equivalent to 4 city blocks. The Necropolis holds some 140,000 recorded burials, an incredible density in comparison to the population of the surrounding blocks despite the lack of any structures exceeding one storey. One can’t help consider the constant demand for new burial grounds in a predominately Catholic country, and the competition for space in a city ranked third in the world for the number of high rise buildings. If building tops could be adapted for the purpose of cemeteries their effect could be the equivalent to that of green roofs, with their upkeep sponsored by selling grave lots with all the knock on benefits of cooling the building below, subduing the level of light pollution from the streets and adding an element of sublime to the experience of the cemetery. (Rua. Cardinal Arcoverde)
Heading north towards the bridge over the Tiete we slowed down in the afternoon traffic. A man in the road changing some window wipers a few cars ahead caught our friends attention, ‘Oh I need new wipers, how much?’, ”20 Reals”, ‘the garage quoted 70, meet at the next lights’ We drove off and into the next batch of traffic. He comes jogging up and with a practiced deftness as impressive as any of the quick handed jugglers that work the traffic lights, he whips off the old ones and installs the new. The moneys exchanged and without the slightest hinderance we’re off in the migration home. It’s an experience that makes one re-consider the model of automobile city, that rather than maligning it in favour of the european walkable city the car city needs to be pushed especially as the now super-sized Sao Paulo cannot be easily reverted to it’s walkable past. It’s not necessarily a failure of the 60′s by adopting the car city but a failure of recent decades to keep pushing a future vision. If the cars had cleaner emissions (although Brazil’s a world leader in the use and production of Bio fuel) and if the roads could be more generous to pedestrians then one can envisage many chores made conveniently drive through- voting for local elections, audiobook libraries for further education courses, fruit and vegetable markets more adapt to compete with the expedience of supermarkets, all contributing to a drive through metropolis where the culture of congestion is developed towards a constructive market place. (Av. Pompeia/ R.Turiassu)
Elle Magazine with Brazilian super transexual Lea T, the first to be featured on the cover. The daughter of former international football player Toninho Cerezo she became face of Givenchy in 2010, Catwalked for Alexandre Herchcovitch in Sao Paulo fashion week and appeared on Oprah. As fashion seeks androgenous looks, and the ultimate beauty being a strong man with soft femininity and vice-a versa it is odd to consider that Transexual models are new within fashion, how can mere female or man models possibly compete.
A 400m stretch of Ave. Faria Lima is bathed in a pink light every sunny afternoon from the Po-mo blockbuster building Institute Tomie Otake. It’s a phenomenon that offers great potential for buildings to have such far reaching effects on the surrounding streets, to the extent where streets could adopt the name of the colour reflected from a large building. One thinks of streets such as Sunset Boulevard which is flooded in filmic light during the suns daily decent into the Pacific. (Av. Faria Lima)
The remains of past years carnival floats lie in mountains of broken polystyrene. Giant hands holding foaming mugs of beer, half a mythical beast, the bust of Horas, the bow of a Viking Gallon, all lie fragmented mass of past themes in a parody of fallen civilisations. The conception of the floats starts a week after carnival ends and with two months to go their construction is a closely guarded secret. Float builders hurry to a fro visiting the float mountains to rip the metal infrastructures from the polystyrene shells for reuse. Whilst giant blocks of expanded polystyrene are still being carved into a multitude of forms for Carnival this year, there is some hope for more sustainable materials. The latest trend is to import art directors from Boi Bumba Carnival, deep in the Amazon and situated too far from polystyrene manufacturing, spectacular carnivals floats are constructed with an intricate lattice of metal framework and stretched fabric. Mechanically activated through cables and pulleys from within like an inverted puppet the forms are animated with astonishing realism, the fabric surfaces seem alive in a way that can’t be achieved with polystyrene.
The Roa Gaslamp for city camping, comes with a fine netting called Camisa – a ‘shirt’ which you drape from the top. The delicate ‘shirt’ of fire retardant material retains the gas. When ignited the soft bulb glows with the equivalent brightness of 500 – 600 candles in the night of the tropical city.
Igreja de Nossa Senhora do Rosário dos Homens Pretos (Church of Our Lady of the Rosary of Black Men) This church is better known locally as the ‘black church’, built by freed slaves. The square in which it’s located is one of the seedier spaces where plump prostitutes wait leaning against thin trees and bums lie unconscious amongst the shrubs. The Church’s interior decor is a refreshing contrast to the dull grandeur of Se. Celine Dion plays as hymns, bright plastic flowers and strange muppet like statues depicting the usual biblical characters.
Traditional hand painted wooded sided trucks with patterns unique to their drivers, often spotted around the city’s market laden with fruits from the North. This one carried construction materials, yet despite the utilitarian cargo, the flaps have a lovely decorative fringe. (R. Dr. Antoninao dos S. Rocha)
Sao Paulo rain is frequent and heavy, one product that is popular for its versatility is the blue tarp. The familiar blue sheeting can be used as the most basic architectural element, as roof, floor, walls or sails for boats. Here in the city, they can be seen frequently used inside Churches, as an artificial pond for the carps to swim in.
Vila Itororó was built in 1920′s by a master builder Francisco de Castro from salvaged materials, it is considered to be the first private residents in Sao Paulo to have a pool. The four story architectural masterpiece that has giant columns plunging into the valley and series of walkways connecting to the road, is now in a sad state of disrepair occupied by squatters. A campaigned to restore the building as a cultural centre has been floundering for years. (R. Martiniano de Carvalho)
Christmas brings an annual tidal wave of plastic products and packaging but one positive use is this festive decoration in recycled PET bottles and disused CDs. Although it’s merely perpetuating the otherwise short-lived life of disposable plastic for a season, it replaces a purpose-made plastic decoration. (Av. Paulista)
As with Avocado, Sweetcorn is a vegetable categorised as a dolce, to be eaten ground in a folded leaf like a tamale but drizzled with condensed milk or as a flavour of ice-cream. It’s a trivial and delightful revolution yet makes one consider how all sorts of everyday conventions can be re-catogorised.
A city regulation that makes buildings undergoing construction or renovation be covered with a mesh netting to catch falling debris. The effect of draped buildings is a soft structure that responds to the meteorological conditions billowing & buffeting in a large undulating mass like a vertical swelling sea. (R. do Gasometro)
The strange thing about design is the specific function it performs. The cardboard box folded by machine specifically to fit the chair just so, the brick mold at the right depth for the topography of the street, the electric box the right width to support the arm and the chair designed unbearable to sit on without these additional elements. (R.Teodoro Sampaio)
When I entered this wholesale store and stood staring into a wall of shelves containing thousands of wholesale plastic cartoon eyes did I consider the great diversity of soft toys with their almost infinite variations. A whole other animal kingdom of anthropomorhic characters where species escaping collections are extinct and new variations are born. It’s odd to consider where this character kingdom sits in comparison to the human races and the animal kingdom. (R.Com.Abaldo Schahin)
This Kite shop situated in a Favela has a beautiful array of handmade paper kites (called Pipas), they consist of a thin section of bamboo, coloured tissue paper and string, they cost around 20p. The kids live in small homes shared with numerous siblings and where the public space can be narrow streets their games are sent up vertically hundreds of metres in good winds.
Under a huge concrete awning like a brutal communist structure the flower market is a dense mass of flora like a mega oasis. The event attracts hundreds of birds which tweet invisible in the roof as incessantly as the porters whistle to clear the path of the thronging people. As the people leave and the oasis get packed away the birds swoop down to pick at fallen seeds shaken off by vigorous trade.
At the back of a cafe in a working class neighbourhood there’s a row of Arcade machines. A local metal workshop has fabricated the stands for secondhand TV sets & consoles where the kids can pay at the cashier for game time. It makes sense to customise the design so that the games can be changed and updated sporadically. There is no licensing and all the money goes through one point in the cafe. (Interlagos)
There should be a word that’s specific to describing semi-abandoned railway with their particular melancholic beauty- Paranacabia would be a fitting word. Paranacabia is a town in the Serra Do Mar mountains situated between Sao Paulo and the port town of Santos. Its name means ‘where you can see the sea’ in Tupi-Guarani and it’s where the British based the control centre of the railway linking Sao Paulo with international shipping. To scale the steep mountain pass the trains are winched up by a fixed engine at the top and lowered through Atlantic rainforest to the sea. In the 60′s the Military dictatorship cut funding and invested in roads to encourage cars, the Santos rail company became defunct – mostly returned to rust and vegetation. However a freight service that rolls heavily announcing its presence with a striking bell appears as if running after the human race has gone.
At every cafe in Sao Paulo you will see this intriguingly teardrop-shaped fried nourishment. Amongst other fried products and glossy bread, Coxinha Frango -shredded chicken enclosed in glutinous potato paste, provocatively displayed in a line of little edible mountains inside a glass counter. The name literally translated to ‘little thigh’ equivalent of chicken drumsticks in Brazil. Particularly delicious with regular doses of Molho de Pimenta- this hot sauce is homemade and decanted in an old soft drinks bottle. (R. Pe. joao Manuel/ Al. Itu)
Steel baskets for litter line streets at regular intervals in residential area of Sao Paulo. The steel cages are elevated above street level to deter scavenging animals and so heavy rain water doesn’t carry the trash bags away. In contrast to slumped piles of garbage bags these well constructed baskets present the refuse elegantly for collection whilst the clear space underneath gives a sense of tidiness and flow to sidewalk. (R.Cardeal / Av. Christiano Viana)
Silently they play in the background of Bakerys and cafes, security posts and street stalls, the operatic faces can be followed on the stormiest of sets. Brazil’s Telenovelas are the most lavish productions and their influence within Brazil is pervasive. The cast is predominately blonde haired, blue eyed and middle class which perhaps indicates the Brazilian dream is closely related to those of North America & Europe. Perhaps it’s this familiarity which makes Brazil’s melodrama a major hit in Eastern Europe, China and Africa- easily substituting US soap operas.
When the city gets very hot and the mugginess of the air is heavy in suspension, the torrential rain falls. Once Sao Paulo was intertwined with rivers but now it relies on two channelised and shortened water passages. The impenetrable concrete sheds the water to low lying areas with fierce efficiency causing flooding problems. One possible solution could be this porous paving, which has been designed to slow down the passage of water. As well as being practical the effect of rain disappearing into the street as if passing through a parallel pre-urban landscape is surreal. (Urban density map of Sao Paulo)
In Sao Paulo the building owners are responsible for the paving of the pavement in front of their building. The consequence of which is for the most part poorly maintained sidewalks of broken concrete though many businesses pave the street with tiles that carry the emblem of their trade- a bakery will have bread patterns and a locksmith will embed keys in the concrete so the building is continued into the fabric of the street.
These street Churrasco stalls are built in stainless steel with the pleasing boxiness of a kitchen unit. Unlike other street vendors they don’t have colourful sign adornments, advertising their product with the smell of roasting meat that depending on wind conditions tends to infuse an intersection and half a block each side. (Av. Bandeirantes/ R. Bugio)
“La~la~ La~la~” the distant voice of a small child resonates through the street of 25 de Marco. As you walk down the crowded pavement, the songs volume gradually grows as if emitted from a cartoon brat of gigantic proportions, but instead you will find a bald man in fluorescent sweat suit, blowing a whistle. He skilfully opens and closes his hands over the instrument to control the air flow, taunting children from across the street to purchase one. The product which resembles a miniature organ pipe is made by him from a small section of plastic tube and a hand cut plastic top attached with silver tape. There are always a few la la whistlers selling their handmade instrument on 25 de Marco forming the soundscape of the street. (25 de Marco)