In the unisex washroom at La Mar restaurant in Itaim there is a scrolling cityscape decorating the edge of the mirror. At first glance I was frustrated that I didn't recognize the city but then realized the buildings weren't printed true to scale and upon further glance I identified Willis Tower (former Sears Tower) and the Aon Building to know it was most definitely Chicago.
Major cities around the world play host to a collection of timeless statements recognizable and distinctive, be it in their topography like Rio, massive monuments like St. Louis and Paris or in brick and mortar like Sydney and New York. Generally, Sao Paulo is a mass of homogenous concrete with specs of colored glass here and there and little varied architectural distinction in the skyline other than maybe the radio towers on Paulista Avenue that look like mini Eiffel towers.
Its hard to miss the visual nature of Brazil's protectionist mentality, from the designers to the products. Keep it local; its the defining phrase of pride and in some respects its rather refreshing. You may not always get the best your buck can buy but in a way its all relative isn't it? Regarding architecture, you get a good dose of the vernacular talent from the obvious Oscar Niemeyer to Ruy Ohtake to the under-recognized Lina Bo Bardi (MASP). Their masterpieces fall a little short of the loftiness required to make an individual statement along the horizon but each have created memorable pieces. Once you see them, they are unforgettable and unique to Sao Paulo. I have a running list of places to explore and photograph from the Centro Cultural CCSP to the more notable SESC Pompéia but for now we'll stick to the unique.
In an effort to create "daring" architecture in Sao Paulo, Ruy Ohtake's, "Hotel Unique," rises to the occasion. Ohtake was basically given artist's license not only to create an icon but to elevate the standard of boutique hotels. Boasting only 95 rooms this concrete filled smile is best viewed from the top. To be honest I've eaten at the restaurant and I don't think the food is worth the hefty price tag but its certainly worth a drink or five on a breezy clear evening at the sky bar. If you can get a table on the pool deck bordered in glass for optimal city reflection its a Sao Paulo panorama at its best. Planes flying in and taking off above challenging the soft lounge music and conversations of business travelers and local hipsters. Its the perfect place to blow some $R, sit back, relax and take in the monochromatic view.
Some friends were discussing this most unfortunate lack of symbolic skyline here and while there are many historical and political reasons for the overused faceless concrete designs it might mean you just need to sneak below the canopy to find the true gems. In the end, a view is a view right?
I was there recently on a perfect cloud spangled sky.....