Wednesday, October 10, 2007

são paulo, layers

São Paulo resembles Tokyo. I did not expect this. Both cities’ unbridled development has led to a fragmented metropolis; a sprawling mash of mid-rise modernism over- and underlaid with arterial networks….In Sao Paulo’s case, the city’s explosive growth after years of relative obscurity—compounded with property rights and a vocal geography—led to rampant organizational disjunction. In comparison to the Spanish colonial grid, São Paulo’s compact fortified Portuguese foundation did little to structure subsequent development.

The two differences between the cities (and look, I realize full well that there are about a million and a half differences between these two cities but I’m talking about experiences and impressions here so just come with me on this one) are (1) the modes in which the city accrues its layers and (2) the means by which the city supersaturates one’s senses.

In Sao Paulo, perforated plates replace Tokyo’s criss-crossing pathways. Conceptually and topographically, ground plays a vital role here. It warps and wobbles, sustaining massive cuts here and there but resisting puncture elsewhere. When the city’s plan needs stacking it goes about it in broad sheets, scalpeling out lozenge-shaped apertures to usher in light, air, and views. Like Brazilian women, the city favors a policy of visual disclosure along its nubile curves.

In the images above, note how this spatial sensibility plays out at progressively smaller scales.

At left, superimposed traffic lanes configure not unlike Park Avenue behind Grand Central in New York, although here roadway replaces railroad and the depression is deeded swaths of sky. Note the continuous band of elaborate graffiti running along the lower wall.

At center, a multilevel metro station (Estacio Se) endows the transit connection with generous monumentality and yawning efficiency.

At right, a multi-floor galleria gives the same priority to multi-level unification at much more intimate commercial dimension. Small shops, each one bay wide and more often than not packed with alternative lifestyle paraphernalia, line the promenade.