A Guide to São Paulo Design Destinations

Alex Gilbert
Sep 3, 2014 2:23AM

São Paulo has a rich history of modern design as well as a vibrant contemporary scene—evidenced by the third edition of DW! Design Weekend held last month. The city is massive and susceptible to traffic, so to cover the most ground I recommend you hire a driver to visit my favorite design destinations.

A. Parque Ibirapuera 

AVENUE PEDRO ÁLVARES CABRAL - VILA MARIANA

Photos by Alex Gilbert.

One can’t think of Brazilian design without thinking of Oscar Niemeyer (1907-2012), the influential modern architect best known for the design of the civic buildings of the planned capital city Brasília. In São Paulo, Ibirapuera Park (1951) houses a concentration of Niemeyer’s reinforced concrete buildings including the Fundação Bienal (1951), the flying saucer-like Oca Building (1954), and the wedge-shaped Auditório Ibirapuera (2005), which integrates sculptures by Brazil’s celebrated artist Tomie Ohtake, now 100 years old. Adjacent to Niemeyer’s buildings, you should also visit The Museu de Arte Moderna (MAM), the first modern art museum in Latin America, designed by Lina Bo Bardi in 1948.


B. Casa de Vidro

Rua Gal Almério Moura, 200 - Vila Tramontano

Photos by Alex Gilbert.

Architect Lina Bo Bardi (1914-1992) was born in Italy and collaborated with Gio Ponti prior to moving with her art curator husband to Brazil. In 1951, when her husband was appointed head of Museu de Arte de São Paulo (MASP), Bo Bardi became a naturalized citizen, and built her “Glass House” or Casa de Vidro where she lived until her death. Situated in a neighborhood where the rainforest used to be, Bo Bardi's house was built when there were hardly any trees, save for one that grew through the center courtyard. More than 60 years later, due to Bo Bardi’s plantings, the vegetation has grown up lushly around this daring glass cube atop piloti. The icing on the cake is seeing all of Bo Bardi’s original furnishings, including a few unique pieces and rare prototypes.


C.  Museu Da Casa Brasileira 

Avenue Brigadeiro Faria Lima, 2705 - Jardim Paulistano

Photo by Alex Gilbert.

Hugo França (b. 1954) was working as an industrial engineer in São Paulo before he moved to northern Brazil in Bahia at the age of 26, to live among the Pataxó people and fish. Some 15 years later, inspired by the Pataxós use of fallen native pequi wood to make canoes, França started making furniture. In New York, you can see his large-scale sculptural works at R & Company, but if you’re in São Paulo, there’s currently an exhibition of his work in the garden of Museu Da Casa Brasileira (av. Brig. Faria Lima, 2705). You shouldn’t miss lunch at the museum restaurant Santinho (chef Morena Leite is França’s goddaughter). Also, through September 11th, don’t miss the museum’s Lina Bo Bardi exhibition.


D. Firma Casa

Alameda Gabriel Monteiro da Silva, 1487 - Jardim América

Photos by Alex Gilbert.

Firma Casa was founded in 1994, and in 2008 the owner Sonia Diniz Bernardini invited The Campana Brothers to conceive of a design for a new gallery; in turn, the Campanas invited a young architecture firm SuperLimão Studio to work with them. The result is a facade covered in origami-like hanging vases holding more than 3,500 Espada-de-São-Jorge plants, commonly associated with protective powers in Brazil. Firma Casa functions as both a showroom and a gallery for limited-edition works by designers such as Nada Se Leva, who are working closely with a group of local craftspersons to market their embroidered hammocks and pillows globally.


E.  Passado Composto Seculo XX 

Alameda Lorena, 1996 - Jardins

Photo by Alex Gilbert.

Visit Passado Composto Seculo XX for an exceptional selection of vintage Brazilian design by the likes of Joaquim TenreiroSergio Rodrigues, and Jorge Zalszupin. Modernist Brazilian tapestries are also an area of expertise for the vastly knowledgeable owner Maria Das Graças Bueno, a second-generation dealer.


F. Hotel Fasano 

Rua Vittorio Fasano 88 - Jardins

Photo by Alex Gilbert.

To finish off your design tour of São Paulo, head to Hotel Fasano, designed by Isay Weinfeld and Marcelo Kogan. The sophisticated lobby bar is immensely handsome, but the Baretto jazz bar is worthy of a truly special occasion.


Explore more of City Guide: São Paulo.

Alex Gilbert
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Jenna Gribbon, Luncheon on the grass, a recurring dream, 2020. Jenna Gribbon, April studio, parting glance, 2021. Jenna Gribbon, Silver Tongue, 2019