Archives for category: Architecture Brazil

Motoring back from the Litoral Norte of the state of São Paulo is an entertaining and scenic drive from Ubatuba along a steep and winding road up the escarpment. It’s difficult to stop, but glimpses of the view down to the coast are especially striking early in the morning.

View of the bay of Ubatuba from the SP125

View of the bay of Ubatuba from the SP125

Be careful to keep your eyes on the road though – it’s so steep and winding that the narrow verges are littered with the hubcaps of cars that must turn in sharply. Driving towards Taubaté, you pass a turn-off for the historic town of São Luiz do Paraitinga. It’s set on a bend in the river for which it’s named.

from the Tupi parahytinga, clear water

from the Tupi parahytinga, clear water

Founded in the eighteenth century, São Luis is a pretty little Baroque town which quickly became one of the largest in Imperial Brazil. Its prosperity was built on farming coffee and wheat.

Facade of the recently restored Igreja São Luiz de Tolosa 

Facade of the recently restored Igreja São Luiz de Tolosa

The imposing façade of the main church evokes the town’s wealth and status, though its recent history reflects a more modest reality – destroyed by floods in 2010, the church was restored and rebuilt using government funds available to sites declared a part of Brazil’s patrimônio cultural nacional. These days, the local economy depends as much on tourism, especially during carnaval, as on agriculture.

Mannerist arcade

Mannerist arcade

During carnaval, the townpeople’s fondness for the music of marchinas, for larger-than-life puppets and for folk dancing comes to the fore. The São Luis celebrations are well-known in Brazil.

View from the nineteenth century ...

View from nineteenth century …

Perhaps less well-known is its religious life. São Luis is home to a congada and moçambique tradition, dance displays with an Afro-Brazilian syncretist religious background. It’s clear from a stroll around the historic centre during the Easter break that religion is a large part of life here. Church architecture is prominent.

 ... Gothic

… neo-Gothic Rosário 

Amid the colourful folkloric displays of painted houses …

 ... on the colourful Largo do Teatro

… on the Largo do Teatro

… and the street theatre of carnavaI – 

20150403_110154

Celebrating the town’s theatrical traditions – puppets, music, marching, maypoles

– there’s a more serious note. Displayed in the windows of what I took to be three religious establishments – presumably working convents or monasteries, judging by their well-preserved state –

Ecclesiastical purple for Easter

Ecclesiastical blue and purple for the end of Lent on Easter Sunday

– there were blue and purple banners, some gold-fringed or with appliquéd crosses, to remind us both of the festive and of the solemn Christian religious aspects of Easter.

House of a religious order founded in Calabria

House of a religious order founded in Calabria

More usual on the altar in a church, in São Luis they were displayed even in the windows of modest private houses as well as in religious settings.

Blue burning bright in the sunlight

Burning blue in the sunlight – with Lenten purple at the windows

In São Luis, everyday life seems to become theatrically spectacular.

Parati is a historic town set on the edge of the Mata Atlantica, the Atlantic rain forest, on the coast of the state of Rio de Janeiro. First settled by the Portuguese in the sixteenth century, it became the port for shipping gold and diamonds from the interior to Rio and on to Portugal. Miners, supplies and slaves travelled by mule train into the state of Minas Gerais (MG, `General Mines`) by the same route, the Caminho do Ouro, running along an indigenous path. Parati offered a break in the escarpment of the 1,500 kilometre Serra do Mar, and a natural harbour.

Gracious living in Parati

Gracious living in Parati

The town grew into a substantial settlement, with a good number of churches, and forts to protect it – the gold-laden ships were a target for pirates operating from the many nearby islands and beaches.

British and Portuguese cannon, Forte Defensor

British and Portuguese cannon, Forte Defensor Perpétuo

Parati’s economic fortunes have risen and fallen, its relative isolation preserving the Baroque architecture which underpins its revival as a tourist destination.

Entrance to Casa Turquesa

Entrance to hotel Casa Turquesa

Baroque luxury raises an echo in Parati’s restaurants and antique shops, and modern luxury is also in evidence.

Restaurante Refugio

Restaurante Refugio

Its cobbled streets are hard going on foot, and motor vehicles are allowed only on Wednesdays, for deliveries. Horse-drawn carts carry supplies and tourists over the cobbles.

Cobbled streets at a leisurely pace

Cobbled streets, at a leisurely pace

You could be back in the eighteenth century, though many of the town houses are now shops, restaurants and business premises.

Working tourist town

Working tourist town

Like Ouro Preto, the much larger Baroque town at the other end of the Caminho do Ouro, Parati allows you to see domestic Baroque architecture in operation. White-washed walls are thick – some with sandstone mouldings – decorated with stucco and paint, roofs of clay pantiles, and wooden floors above the ground floor flagstones.

Baroque cooling

Baroque air conditioner

Only the churches are higher than two stories. Rooms are high-ceilinged, window-frames painted in powder blue or grey.

Tidal canal

Tidal canal

Parati is set just below sea level in a river delta, with breaks in the sea wall which allow high tides to flood some streets. Flooding was once the only form of sanitation, and given the horses, it’s still a good thing, though it doesn’t smell entirely clean.

Rio Perequê-Açu canalised

Rio Perequê-Açu canalised

The river to the north of the historic town centre provides a cool corridor against the January heat.

Capela de Santa Rita

Capela de Santa Rita, completed 1722

Parati is undergoing renovation – two of its four historic churches are closed, and the SESC cultural centre is being refurbished. The elaborate Santa Rita church was built for the Portuguese and for freed slaves.

Igreja de Nossa Senhora do Rosário e São Benedito

Igreja de Nossa Senhora do Rosário e São Benedito, 1725

The Rosário, built for the slave population, has a much simpler facade, and its corner mouldings are of painted stucco, not sandstone.

Capela de Nossa Senhora das Dores

Capela de Nossa Senhora das Dores, 1800

Nossa Senhora das Dores – Our Lady of Sorrows – is an elegant little building on the Rua Fresca sea front. It was used by society ladies, and renovated in 1900. Behind the church is a walled church yard. The church was closed when we were there, with no sign of when it opens.

Igreja Matriz Nossa Senhora do Remédios

Igreja Matriz Nossa Senhora dos Remédios, completed 1873

Nossa Senhora dos Remédios is large and central, with a tree-lined square in front, and a campanile for its clock. It’s structurally simple, a series of lean-tos, and the interior is modest by Brazilian standards. 

Largest church in Parati

Largest church in Parati

Painted marble-effect mouldings and painted walls – which look like wallpaper – saints in glassed-in niches, and sober monochrome floor tiles all make for a subdued interior.

Painted chancel walls

Painted chancel walls

This looks a middle-class church, presumably built on the coffee trade which replaced the gold shipments.

St Michael, a Brazilian favourite

St Michael, a Brazilian favourite

Another active trade in Parati was the cachaça industry. A few small producers are still distilling this spirit from sugar cane – Parati was well-known for it. These days the best cachaça is said to come from the state of Minas Gerais, though it is still actively retailed to tourists in Parati. Proving the point, we found a large retailer whose display included a collection of old bottles from Parati …

Cachaça museum

Cachaça museum

… and a collection of miniatures – a smart way to sell to the souvenir market – which were overwhelmingly Mineiro.

Minas Gerias miniatures, with seductive labels

Minas Gerias miniatures, with seductive labels

Parati understandably promotes and preserves its former glory, but there’s a faint echo of other sentiments.

The land on which the historic centre is built was donated by a Senhora Maria Jácome de Melo on condition that a church dedicated to Nossa Senhora dos Remédios was built … and that the local indigenous Guaianá were unharmed.

Santa Rita is said to be haunted by the ghost of a young 19th-century bride found dead on her wedding morning. The groom reportedly went mad, having begged for the coffin to be opened. When years later the coffin was actually opened, the corpse was face down, a punishment meant to prevent the soul leaving the body through the mouth.

A smaller church in Parati, the Capela da Generosa, was funded by a local woman in memory of a Teodoro who is said to have drowned in the Rio Perequê-Açu while impiously fishing on Good Friday.

Looking towards Rua Fresca

Looking towards Rua Fresca

Standing on the Rua Fresca and recalling that it was the rich who enjoyed the sea breeze, that the streets were awash with sewage, that a slave who tried to escape could only could take the heavily-patrolled Caminho do Ouro through the rainforest or the sea road controlled by cannon and pirates, that the indigenous people were subject to the Europeans, that even Christian salvation was markedly stratfied, you sense a less pretty view of the Baroque town, driven by the greed for gold, by violence and military rule, by slavery and oppression.

It seems fitting that a vampire wedding – from the Twilight saga – can be filmed here. And this week in Parati, a shooting amid Carnaval celebrations …  http://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory/carnival-suspended-paraty-brazil-deadly-shooting-28988156

Visiting the Baroque Brazilian city of Ouro Preto – built on the wealth of the gold found locally with iron oxide (‘black gold’ or ouro preto) – you may be directed to one of the museums, the 1784 Casa dos Contos. It’s a museum of coinage and the gold cycle, serving at various times as private residence and tax office, barracks and prison, Government mint and gold foundry, post office and savings bank, and town hall. The building has played a major role in the history of the city.

Substantial Baroque building - with Niemeyer's Grande Hotel behind

Substantial Baroque building – with Niemeyer’s Grande Hotel behind

Ouro Preto – first named Vila Rica or ‘rich village’ – was in its heyday at the end of the eighteenth century the largest city in Brazil, with 100,000 inhabitants. The Casa dos Contos is an imposing building, with some unusual features. The large set of chimneys visible at the rear was installed to drive the fires required for high-temperature gold smelting. Zoom in on the image and you see between the third and fourth windows from the left two large holes made in the wall for ventilation.

Wide enough for a dozen armed mounted men

Wide enough for a dozen armed mounted men

Security was of course tight. One reason for the gold to be smelted and exported under government control was to discourage theft, but it also meant that the Crown could claim its 20% before the smelted hallmarked bars were escorted under armed guard to the coast.

View from the balcony

View from the balcony

It’s an impressive building inside too – wide stone stairs with beautifully carved jacaranda balustrades, and large airy rooms on the first floor overlooking the street, complete with period furniture, decorated ceilings, and bookcases for the Museum archive.

Gracious living on the piano nobile

Gracious living on the piano nobile

But the most remarkable part of the Museum’s collection is in the cellar. The Casa is built, like other Ouro Preto baroque residences, to withstand sudden heavy rainfall on the cobbled hills. Massive freestone pillars support the level upper stories, and the cellar floor is finished likewise in hard local freestone, roughly set edgeways. It was hard going even with trainers on. It slopes away markedly towards the watercourse alongside.

Displayed in the niches of the freestone walls and between the pillars is a collection of eighteenth and nineteenth century household goods – kitchen implements, building tools, farm and workshop repair and maintenance contraptions. The collection was made by a local man who worked as a shoe repairer, developing over years his interest in Baroque daily life. Displayed casually among the household items are branding irons, manacles, wooden stocks, and a large evil-looking mantrap for runaway slaves. In the quietest, most effective way, these objects make clear how Brazil’s wealth was built on slavery, why in this cellar where they lived and worked in the kitchen they also washed their clothes in a crude stone-built laundry, why the ventilation holes in the first floor foundry are narrower than a man. And why a young Ouro Pretan on the street greets his fellow African Brazilian with the words “O, escravo!”

Avenida Paulista is the main thoroughfare in the older business district of Sao Paulo, in the city’s Centro. These days, the offices throng Avenida Faria Lima and the wealthy live in quiet low-rise suburbs like the Jardims, but once the mansions of the coffee barons lined Paulista in impressive displays of wealth. A few relics remain from its time as a grand address.

Catedral Nossa Senhora do Paraíso

Catedral Nossa Senhora do Paraíso

But being Brazil, nothing is quite as it seems. This cathedral building dates from 1952, and is the seat of the largest community of Melkite Greek Roman Catholic Christians in the world. They trace their ancestry to Antioch at the time of the apostles, following the Byzantine rite, in full communion with Rome. Services are conducted in Arabic …

Turn-of-the-century relict

Turn-of-the-century relict

This quiet beauty remains stubbornly anonymous. Government building?

Corner site - listed building?

Corner site – listed building?

Brazil has a system for listing buildings of historical and architectural interest – a listing is somewhat ominously called a tombamento – and the fate of such buildings seems to be government ownership or as in the case of the site above, business premises for consultancies and similar. Since 1991 there have been tax concessions for (regulated) conservation and restoration work on listed buildings, indeed the law applies to all kinds of material cultural heritage.

http://www.prefeitura.sp.gov.br/cidade/secretarias/cultura/patrimonio_historico/preservacao/index.php?p=430

That may be seen as very little and very late in the case of Avenida Paulista, when you look back to how it was.

Avenida Paulista 1902

Avenida Paulista 1902

From http://pt.wikipedia.org/wiki/S%C3%A3o_Paulo_(cidade)

And down near Avenida Faria Lima, where the public infrastructure – Metro station and now roadworks and bus station – is gradually catching up with rapid commercial development, a quick solution is still popular. It’s November, shopping starts now; which colours shall we use for our redecoration? The strong Brazilian visual sense is in rude health.

Avenida Teodoro Sampaio

Reindeer on Avenida Teodoro Sampaio

The Torre Pedroso de Moraes and the Torre Faria Lima in the business district along the Avenida Faria Lima in Sao Paulo are a pair of landmarks. Developed for Brazilian company Aché Pharma, Faria Lima stand head and shoulders above the surrounding mixed-use buildings, while Pedroso de Moraes provides a tongue-in-cheek foil. The high tower is iconic near and far.

Street-level view

Street-level view with theatre entrance below

Pedroso de Moraes was built first, and is known locally as the ‘Palácio da Carambola’ for its star-fruit-shaped supports.

Pure geometry

Pure geometry

The inverted ziggurat of Pedroso de Moraes is a kind of anti-tower, its sharp edges and broad-shouldered shape a riposte to the sleek areodynamics above.

Intersecting volumes

Intersecting volumes

Yet they interact harmoniously, the high-gloss finish serving to unite as well as to reflect.

Glossy surfaces

Reflective surfaces

A familiar sight when glimpsed in traffic, Faria Lima surprises with its scale in close-up.

Lilliputian street furniture

It dwarfs the street furniture

The distinctive entrance to the tower’s gallery and theatre is playful compared with its business-like access on Pedroso de Moraes.

Offices of Demarest & Almeida Avogados

Offices of Demarest & Almeida Avogados

The  Instituto Cultural Tomie Ohtake entrance gives the colours of its tower a playful shake, as if it were a handful of bunting ribbons. (Tomie Ohtake is a Brazilian abstract painter and the mother of the architect, Ruy Ohtake.)

Signature entrance

Signature entrance

The interior foyers are a series of long low spaces built with more of the raw concrete and white steel bracing used for the exterior. Exhibition spaces are the familiar white cuboids, pleasantly high-ceilinged.

Spacious interior view

Spacious interior …

... with comfortable café

… with comfortable café

There were photographic exhibitions on when I visited, both international and Brazilian, including photographs of Brazilian architecture, a fitting subject for such a well-known edifice.

Iconic building

Iconic building …

... with local adventures ...

… with local adventures …

... in architecture to match

… in architecture to match

One suspects that when Aché Pharma, recently the subject of bid speculation, becomes as obscure a name as Pedroso de Moraes – a Brazilian pioneer bandeirante known as “Terror dos Indios” – the tower for which they funded the development will still be known by the name of its architect.

Reflected cloudscape

Reflected cloudscape

Banded colour

Banded colour …

... carried through into interior

… carried through into interior

Carambola support

Carambola support

Even more dramatic at night

Even more dramatic at night

 

In 1554 a group of  Portuguese Jesuit missionaries established a school and settlement in the unexplored interior of Brazil, on a plateau which sits high above the place where the rivers Tamanduateí and Anhangabaú meet. Known as São Paulo dos Campos de Piratininga, it was a mixed settlement of Jesuits, Portuguese colonisers and indigenous Caingangue people.

The first Colégio building was a simple wattle-and-daub hut, or in the words of José de Anchieta, one of the founding priests, “um paupérrima e estreitíssima casinha“, a very basic and narrow little house. By 1556 a school and church had been built using rammed earth.

The names for the rivers, and the fact that they shared the settlement, suggest that the indigenous people had good relations with the colonisers. The site for the mission chapel was originally the house of one of the indigenous chiefs.

Rebuilt 1653 and 1953

Rear wall overlooking the steep drop to the Anhangabaú

Not all the settlers had good relations with the indigenous people. In 1560 the Governor General of Brazil, Mem de Sá, ordered the inhabitants of the nearby village of Santo André da Borda do Campo to move to the Colégio, to protect themselves from indigenous attacks behind its walls. In 1562 the Colégio was itself besieged, and although it survived, attacks were to continue intermittently for the next 30 years. But the settlement grew, and in 1585 the Colégio was expanded.

Looking out over the inner courtyard

Inner courtyard

In their mission to convert and educate the indigenous peoples, the Society of Jesus also came into conflict with the colonisers, who wanted the indigenous as slaves and  labourers on their plantations, not as literate Christians. When disputes arose with the labourers who lived in Jesuit communities, the colonisers found they were dealing with the Jesuits, rather than with the labourers. In 1640, the Jesuits were expelled from the settlement they had founded. By 1653 Fernão Dias Paes Leme, one of the colonisers who had supported their expulsion, had brokered their return. The Colégio underwent major repairs.

Daughter of the cacique (indigenous leader) Tibiriçá with José de Anchieta

Bartira, daughter of the cacique (leader) Tibiriçá, with José de Anchieta

The colonisers mounted expeditions to the interior, setting out from São Paulo dos Campos de Piratininga to capture runaway slaves, to enslave more of the indigenous population – cheaper than buying African slaves – and to search for gold and precious stones. These expeditions followed a flag, a bandeira, the explorers being known as bandeirantes. It’s a history of which the city remains very aware.

Bandeirante pioneer Bartolomeu Bueno da Silva, Parque Trianon, Sao Paulo

Bandeirante pioneer Bartolomeu Bueno da Silva, Parque Trianon, Sao Paulo

Gold was discovered in the interior in the 1690s. The Jesuits meanwhile continued to convert the indigenous to Christianity, to educate them, and to learn their languages. They were active throughout the colony.

Jesuit Museum at Embu, Sao Paulo state

Jesuit Museum at Embu, São Paulo state

In 1759 the Jesuits were expelled once again, not just from São Paulo, but from Brazil and from Portugal by the powerful Prime Minister Sebastião José de Carvalho e Melo, who was later made the Marquess of Pombal by a grateful Joseph I of Portugal. The Jesuit church in São Paulo was used by the Portuguese Crown and later the state, becoming known as the Palácio dos Governadores, and the Pátio do Colégio as the Largo do Palácio. The church was demolished in 1896.

Tribunal de Justiça do estado de São Paulo

From the practice of Severo Ramos de Azevedo & Villares

Surrounded by more exuberant Paulistano architecture – the former Primeiro Tribunal de Alçada Civil  is an extraordinary 1930s confection – the Colégio which sits neatly on its hilltop today is a reconstruction, rebuilt between 1953 when the site was returned to the Society and 1979 when the Museu Anchieta was opened.

Pátio do Colégio

Pátio do Colégio, rebuilt 1653 and 1953

This quiet seventeenth-century Mannerist building hides its extraordinary history behind a modest whitewashed facade. When the museum’s re-design is implemented, let’s hope they make more use of its dramatic story.

http://www.pateodocollegio.com.br/newsite/

In 1933 the Mercado Central opened in the centre of Sao Paulo, establishing a covered venue for what had been a collection of street markets for all kinds of food. Harking back to the dominance of agriculture during the café com leite era ended by the Revolution of 1930, the agricultural products of Sao Paulo state were to be sold in what was a grand and decorative yet also a functional building.

Entrance to Mercado Central with coat of arms of city of Sao Paulo over

The cornucopias supporting the Sao Paulo crest are echoed in the fruit-filled urns surmounting the keystone caryatids – could this be the origin of Carmen Miranda’s famous millinery?

Cast iron ribbed roofing with Corinthian capitals

Cast iron ribbed roofing with acanthus leaf capitals

The Mercado’s architect was Francisco de Paula Ramos de Azevedo (1851-1928), who ran one of the most prestigious practices of the time. He was the architect of what is now the Pinacoteca Sao Paulo gallery

https://theproverbial.org/2012/07/16/jardim-da-luz-2/

a building which began life as a vocational school for the applied arts. The Mercado has also undergone changes of use – renamed the Mercado Municipal, and from 1969 transformed into a retail- and leisure-oriented space, while the sale of wholesale agricultural produce has moved to the larger, out-of-town-centre CEAGESP site at Vila Leopoldina. Like the Mercado, this site is also open almost every day.

http://www.ceagesp.gov.br/english/

The Mercado Municipal is a retail space where every conceivable kind of foodstuff is sold

You can't make a silk purse ...

Sold by Porco Feliz, without irony

including that essential for the feijoada pork and bean stew, pigs’ ears.

The food enthusiast can spend a happy hour or two shopping for the wares of vintners and butchers, fruiterers and fish-mongers (including piranha), sellers of herbs and spices, cheese-mongers, every kind of coster-monger … the variety of food is astonishing.

A mezzanine floor has been created inside the ample proportions of the market building. It has a good collection of restaurants of varied types, with a large common seating area crammed with chairs and tables, and a range of counters preparing the food bought to you by busy waiters. Going to the market is a family day out. In summer, the tables are cooled by large fans which spray misted water over the diners.

Themed stained glass

Paradise gardens

A striking feature is the series of stained glass windows on agricultural themes on the opposite side, above the food stalls.

stained glass

It’s a bird’s life

Imported from Germany, they depict the raising of the produce on offer below. Idealised even for 1930, there is little sign of the agribusiness engine of the Brazilian economy of today. Nonetheless, they are charming. They’re difficult to appreciate at a distance – click on them to see them across your screen. More on the Mercado’s history at

http://vejasp.abril.com.br/materia/mercado-municipal-sp?gclid=CMDa5sTLy7cCFUtk7Aod-QUAPQ

What’s missing from this picture? We couldn’t smell any freshly baked bread, though there are some few stalls which sell bread, and some of the older stalls serving food downstairs are famous for their bologna (mortadella) filled bread rolls. Perhaps food hygiene prohibits baking anywhere except in the padaria. What was stranger for Brazil was not being able to smell freshly roasted coffee – we didn’t spot a single stall.

They've Got an Awful Lot of Coffee in Brazil ... ?

They’ve Got an Awful Lot of Coffee in Brazil … ?

But you can visit any of six Nespresso shops in Sao Paulo, and more elsewhere in the country, where coffee is not so much a commodity as a high-margin luxury item, supporting the sale of expensive coffee-making machines which – truthfully – are nothing like as successful as the old Gaggia machine in any corner bar of Italian extraction. The staff are dressed in muted browns, the shop fittings are carefully co-ordinated, and you can serve yourself with capsule coffee. But that glorious smell is not in evidence there either. Strange country, Brazil.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vVGXcjM9SOQ

Jazz nos Fundos is a venue for those in the know in Sao Paulo. On the edge of the Via Madalena nightlife district, and accessed through a working estacionamento or car park, it’s a place to come and listen to the best of Sao Paulo jazz, to patronise with friends and lovers, or to meet the opposite gender. Barely a building at all, it’s a roofed-in corridor which looks as though it was once a car-repair garage.

A nod in the direction of a salon

A nod in the direction of a salon

The venue’s studied air of post-industrial neglect is enhanced by the detritus and the decrepit musical instruments decorating the walls, the rows of old cinema seats for aficionados in front of the stage, and the general gloom of the L-shaped space. A changing art display is hung on some salvaged panels leant against the wall. Customers start to arrive at about 9:30, as the musicians are setting up. Arriving a little earlier means the crush at the small bar is easier to manage. It’s around the corner at the end of the seating area, where you can also dance, or find the toilet. This venue can’t be accused of being too comfortable.

A Latin line-up to make you dance for joy ...

A Latin line-up to make you dance for joy …

The cu-bop line-up of La Orkestra K has played here a few times. Their infectious dance music puts a smile on your face and a song in your heart. With piano, reeds, guitar, brass, wind, percussion and rhythm section, and vocals in Spanish and Portuguese, they cover a range of Latin American musics – Colombian porro and cumbia, Cuban paseo and bolero – and their own compositions, under the musical direction of Paulo K. Individually impressive as soloists, they have clearly worked together many times, to forge a tight and playful ensemble, as their SoundCloud tracks testify.

https://soundcloud.com/laorkestrak

 ... and streamed live to a screen near you

… and streamed live to a screen near you

Formed in 2011, the Paulistano band has its origins in the music school of the Universidade Estadual de Campinas, and they have learnt their craft well. Just as impressive a sign of the musical vigour of Brazilian culture is the fact that Jazz nos Fundos streams all its music live over the Web, and archives it as an excellent library of contemporary Brazilian jazz. It’s a static webcam, but what a soundtrack! From December last year and this February, here is La Orkestra K’s contribution.

http://jazznosfundos.net/#!8883

STOP PRESS La Orkestra K is in the recording studio putting the finishing touches to their first album. Stand by for dancing!

The eponymous Paulo K (arms folded)

La Orkestra K, the eponymous Paulo K with arms folded

On the coast fifty miles east of Sao Paulo is the port of Santos, the largest in Latin America. When Paulistanos say they are going ‘to the beach’ for the weekend, they are heading east, though many go to the more chic beach resorts further up the coast. Stuggling through the traffic on Friday and Sunday nights is part of the routine. But if you can go earlier or later than the crowd, it’s an easy trip by Metro and bus.

2013-03-30 13.16.56

Bus station Jabaquara

Taking the Blue Line or Linha Azul to its end at Jabaquara, and a Cometa bus to Santos Ponto da Praia had me on the beach in less than two hours. The descent to sea level through the rain-forest or Mata Atlântica which spreads over the hills is exciting and scenic.

2013-03-30 13.58.59

On the descent into Santos

Santos and surrounds are home to a mere 1.5 million people, much smaller than the Sao Paulo area’s 27 million. The modesty of its dimensions is part of its appeal after the Paulistano urban sprawl.

2013-03-30 14.53.21

Bust of the Duque de Caxias, modest compared with his 12-storey monument in Sao Paulo

Built on the coffee trade, Santos is a sprawling expanse of shipping containers and port service businesses. It remembers earlier trades too.

2013-03-30 14.51.29

O Pescador, Ricardo Cipicchia, 1941, near the Aquário Municipal

2013-03-30 16.46.19

1908 Sailors’ School – Escola de Aprendizes-Marinheiros – now Museu de Pesca

Fishing is still part of the scene, though not as economically important as it once was. While the Chinese container ships plough through the water to trade Brazilian goods with the world, visitors and locals throng the beaches, jog or ride bicycles along the seafront, and sit eating, drinking and talking in the restaurants.

2013-03-30 16.52.34

At the harbour’s mouth …

2013-03-30 14.57.32

… the view north

2013-03-30 14.56.55

Looking south from Ponto da Praia

With some judicious ordering you can have fish and chips for lunch.

2013-03-30 15.54.29

Restaurante Aquario’s Chopp

Santos has the usual apartment blocks overlooking – some might say spoiling – the sea view, and a long landscaped walk beside the water.

2013-03-30 14.59.48

Beach palms

The occasional villa survives, usually as a commercial property.

2013-03-30 16.36.42

Fin-de-siècle town house

The early apartment blocks are not entirely utilitarian – balustraded balconies and ocean-going Deco glamour make an appearance.

2013-03-30 16.03.09

A sea front corner block …

2013-03-30 16.40.47

… seems to invite a landmark response

Some later buildings make effective use of colour and ornament too.

2013-03-30 16.42.23

The ramp doesn’t obscure the exuberant detail of the entrance

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And around the corner …

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… the Santos answer to the Sao Paulo Copan Building

The more recent blocks look positively dull by comparison; even the newer landmark buildings seem to be trying a bit too hard.

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Clube de Regatas Saldanha da Gama

It’s a pleasant discovery to encounter the Chorinho no Aquario, a local music series now in its fifth year, setting up on the Praça Vereador Luiz La Scalla. It features well-known Santos and Sao Paulo singer Nadja Soares with a band of locals and guests, singing jazz and choro standards in a free-wheeling style.

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Nadja Soares sings choro, MPB (Música Popular Brasileira) and jazz standards

Later in the evening she appears at the Casa Verde Bistro – more living room than restaurant – in the Encruzilhada neighbourhood in Santos.

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Corner of R. Monsenhor Paulo Rodrigues and R. Júlio Conceição, Encruzilhada …

2013-03-30 22.51.35 Stitch

… with the Green House upstairs

Local regulars drift in and greet each other warmly. And when the singing begins, it feels even more like a party in someone’s living room.

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More than hearts and flowers behind the green door

The repertoire of artists such as Milton Nascimento from the time of the dictatorship in Brazil is sung with real fervour, and by the whole room. This music stirs strong memories.

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They can sing for hours behind the green door

Brazil has the capacity to surprise at the most unexpected moments. In a genteel upstairs room in a quiet part of Santos, I hear an echo of a more turbulent time, when songs and guitars were pitted against torture and dictatorship. I go home thoughtful, reminded once more of how central music is to the life of Brazil.

http://www.aquarioschopp.com.br/

http://www.casaverdebistro.com.br/

Sao Paulo is quiet this weekend. There are blocos out dancing in the streets – I can hear them coming up from Vila Madalena, as can the barking dogs, followed it seems inexorably by emergency sirens – but many folk have gone elsewhere to sample the delights of carnaval, while the city known in Brazil for hard work (and some say for not knowing how to play) pauses to draw breath. It rained heavily today, as it can in January and February. That dampens carnaval spirits. This year’s accessory is the clear plastic disposal anorak.

Today I strolled down Rua Augusta to the corner of Rua Oscar Friere. It’s an interesting mix – Oscar Freire is all designer boutiques and high-end restaurants, though the locals say that trade is a little precarious. Augusta on the other hand is known for drag queens and prostitutes. In previous generations it was known for chic coffee bars and the fashionable youth style of la dolce vita.

Center Oscar Freire Augusta

Center Oscar Freire Augusta

The building on the corner is an elegant example of Brutalism, the raw concrete cast in flat facades pierced by rounded windows. The concrete of the balconies is harder to keep clean, and the inhabitants have domesticated them with paint, but the faintly nautical effect can be glimpsed behind the abundant plant life and inserted air conditioners.

A graphic sign used to grace the shopfront on Oscar Freire, showing a man drawn in black and white dancing with a coloured umbrella. (Google Earth is keen on copyright.) Lanchonete (pronounced lanchonetchi) Frevo has been here since 1956.

Entrance to Rua Oscar Freire 579

Entrance to Rua Oscar Freire 603

On Sunday afternoon it’s quiet, though it does a brisk trade during the week. The diner is famous for beiruites – a cross between a hamburger and a steak sandwich, it’s a slice of beef with sliced tomato, melted cheese and oregano, in toasted pita bread. A small one is a decent snack. A chope of draught beer makes a refreshing accompaniment. Service is copious, fast and friendly.

The business is built on this simple fare. The decor, unchanged since it opened, has moved from being out of fashion to being a design classic, by virtue of standing still. Even the appliances – scales, beer pump, air conditioning – are vintage. They don’t make ’em like that any more.

Wire figure 1956

Wire and wood figure 1956

Primrose yellow tiling, fixed red bar stools, and wooden decoration of the supporting beams, window sills, hanging lamps and the front of the kitchen – styled as a beach hut, complete with plastic palm trees – anchor it firmly in the 1950s. The same colour scheme of grey, red and primrose yellow is used in its upmarket sister site.

Frevo Shopping Iguatemi

Frevo Shopping Iguatemi

The square tables start to fill up, some pushed together for groups of family and friends. I order dessert, discovering that they do not serve coffee, so I order another chope.

He dances over the beer pump

He dances over the beer pump

The bevelled mirrors bolted to the walls, even the taste of the dessert – strawberry ice-cream with tinned fruit salad – is 1950s. Frevo is an institution, one of those places which has been around long enough to boast about it, with black and white photographs, with regular and one might say ancient customers, and a venerable patron.

Dancing couple, cool breeze

Dancing couple, cool breeze

And the name? Frevo is the music and dance of carnaval from Recife in the north-east of Brazil, the umbrellas integrated into an acrobatic dance routine. Perfect for a rainy Sao Paulo carnaval afternoon.

Sao Paulo is under constant development and refurbishment. As in many large cities, the sounds of building work are a near-constant accompaniment to daily life – power tools, delivery trucks, steel and concrete fabrication, the shouts and whistles, and the hand-tools, of workmen (haven’t seen a woman builder yet) are woven into the soundtrack. In Sao Paulo, ‘verticalisation’ is the main activity.

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Make a space and fill it in

The older buildings are gradually demolished to make way for towers of apartments, with perhaps a commercial element included. This process is not always straightforward – the redevelopment of Avenida Faria Lima in the 1960s, for example, met with some resistance. See https://theproverbial.org/2012/08/16/regeneracao-gentrificacao/ .

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Corner of Rua Artur d’Azevedo and Rua Fradique Coutinho

On the corner of Azevedo and Fradique, one block of buildings has been gradually shut down for demolition and re-development. A series of graffiti-style posters has appeared, drawing attention to the site.

The female figure was the first to appear, on the traffic control unit, much as they have done in nearby streets, at first painted onto the unit direct.

Corner of Rua Joaquim Antunes and Avenida Rebouças

Corner of Rua Joaquim Antunes and Alameda Gabriel

Eventually all four sides of the Azevedo and Fradique unit were covered, security banding adding a randomly appropriate element to the image.

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Mixed media – paint, newsprint, traffic unit. Her eyes have been opened

Images on paper had begun to appear elsewhere in the neighbourhood.

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Rua Teodoro Sampaio

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As the humans leave, they emerge

As buildings fell vacant, the images spread, much as their real-life subject might do as they are disturbed by demolition. The instinctive revulsion most people feel towards cockroaches was deployed very effectively in this piece of guerrilla art.

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The bar on the corner is now closed

Zezé of the gymnastics academy had been above the shopfront on Azevedo – latterly an automotive workshop – for 35 years, and bid her students and neighbours a sad farewell.

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Rubble on the academy stairs and the blinds awry – only the façade is still standing

This development is symptomatic of a deep-seated issue in Brazil – the ownership of property. Business owners often do not own their premises. The goodwill they build up over years can be destroyed with little notice to make way for a more profitable development.

A year ago the artist put the finishing touches to the mural on the local pool hall, also established about 30 years ago (the leaping / floating man against a blue background an homage to French surrealist Yves Klein – see  http://tudosobretech.wordpress.com/2012/11/11/exposicao-a-fotografia-manipulada-antes-do-photoshop/  ). Whatever benefit the new building delivers, I doubt it will be as characterful as this establishment. Are the graffiti artists the only ones to mourn its passing?

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Mural art with cockroaches

UPDATE Demolition is well under way. A hole in the fabric of the city, soon to be filled by another vertical. For a moment, the unadorned sides of cast concrete buildings are exposed.

Standing on the corner

View on the corner

UPDATE 02

Here’s the hole in the ground from which the new tower will be built.

Corner of Azevedo and , October 2014

Corner of Azevedo and Fradique, October 2014

 

Walking down Rua Cardeal Arcoverde, at the gateway to the bar-and-restaurant-mecca of Vila Madalena in Sao Paulo, I stumble upon artistic traditions, old and new. I’ve been this way before, and enjoyed the street art along a roughly-built brick wall flanking a car parking site.

Street art, Rua Cardeal Arcoverde ...

Street art, Cardeal Arcoverde …

As so often in Sao Paulo, the open space is fleeting, temporary. Car parking is a way of making real estate cover its costs until you can make it really pay, by building an apartment block on it.

 ... now under black paint, with the building demolished

… now under black paint, and the building demolished

The street art may have been superceded, but something catches my eye. I’d noticed a form of street art recently which had made me smile – images on paper flyposted to the street wall. It seemed appropriate, given the subject.

Here was a whole nest of such images – maybe this was from where the other had migrated, or was I seeing a new trend emerging?

Xilo Shirt shopfront, Rua Cardeal Arcoverde, Sao Paulo

Xilo Shirt shopfront, Rua Cardeal Arcoverde, Sao Paulo

‘Xilo print’ is Portugenglish for woodcut print. From this shopfront a group of artists produce and sell printed T-shirts, prints on paper, and printed canvas bags and cushion covers. Blocks are cut by hand into MDF (medium density fibre-board) and stored in racks in the shop – they print a shirt while you wait. The images are cultural icons – musicians, artists, actors, cinema characters, signs and symbols, the ever-present sexual images. Old blocks are built into the decor of the shop. And they offer woodcut printing classes.

There are originals for sale too, mixed media on paper, displayed hanging by bulldog clips from nails in the wall. High art appears among the cultural icons, from Leonardo to Magritte. I mention the now-obliterated art across the street, and I’m told that the harlequin figure – see above – was by a Spanish artist. These folk care about their art, and they make it pay too.

Creative quarter, Vila Madalena

Creative quarter, Vila Madalena

What’s more, Xilo Shirt is in a little cluster of original clothing shops, all decorated in the distinctive manner of Brazilian street art while blending seamlessly with the ‘native’ graffiti. A car mechanic’s wall next door sports a colourful satirical piggy bank next to a blue octopus with a manic grin. .

Pig and octopus

Pig and octopus

The combination of outspoken visual brio and entrepreneurial energy strikes me as characteristically Brazilian. You sense the huge potential of the culture, especially when you consider the country’s immediate economic prospects.

What was less expected was a glimpse of the past. Further down Cardeal, there’s a basement shop which has always intrigued me. It’s a jumble of furniture, architectural fragments, light fittings, bric-a-brac and the odd painting, but I hadn’t seen it open before. The door was open, so I made my way down a sloping walkway with inset steps – like the entrance to a tavern cellar – and spent an intriguing half hour with the occupants and their wares.

Carved marble cartouche at the altar, Catedral da Sé

Carved marble cartouche at the altar, Catedral da Sé

Turns out they are restorers of antiques, hence the varied jumble. They make objects to order too – a resin Egyptian sarcophagus for someone’s birthday celebration – and carve plaster moulds for novelty figurines. Incredibly dusty, this Aladdin’s cave gave me a glimpse of another Vila Madalena, a fine arts workshop. I recall that it’s said that the craftsmen and women working on the Sao Paulo cathedral in the 1920s lived in Madalena. Like planets aligning, the pull of the area became clearer. I saw the street art from a longer perspective.

Familigia Mancini has had not one but two very successful restaurants in the old Italian quarter of Sao Paulo, Bela Vista or Bixiga, for many years. On the gently curving one-way pedestrianised cobbles of Rua Avanhandava, the customers’ cars, the taxis, the moto-boys delivering pizzas on their light motor cycles and the occasional rubbish truck or Prefeitura van jostle for space while people alight and manobristas whisk their cars away. It’s lucky there’s plenty to watch on the street, since you can wait forty minutes for a table, nursing a Campari and soda on the benches outside Mancini’s.

Mancini’s, Rua Avanhandava, Bela Vista, Sao Paulo

Set amid the tall Sao Paulo apartment towers, the street is a glittering river of la dolce vita which has brought the neighbourhood upmarket. Apartment blocks have been renovated, and the affluent footfall has attracted chic interior decor boutiques – another attraction to occupy you while you wait to be seated.

Mancini’s is a comfortable establishment, but tonight we are on the other side of the street at Walter Mancini’s, where not only the food but also the music vies for your attention. In contrast with the homely interior of Mancini’s – exposed brick and wood over a number of levels and alcoves – Walter Mancini’s is built along a curve of plate glass looking onto the street, and refracting the lights of the interior. This is one place where Sao Paulo – TV actors, journalists, established musicians – comes to be seen, and it’s reflected in the decor.

Front row seats at Walter Mancini’s

The soundtrack is jazz standards, played by a changing line-up of trios and quartets who take to the central podium. A small grand piano, acoustic bass and a drum kit are fixtures, and the amplifier is decently soft and clear. Valve trombone, saxophone, a chanteuse, all make an appearance. The musicians appreciate and acknowledge the occasional applause from the customers – many are so engrossed in their conversations and their company that you can forgive the players their stony-faced demeanour. For all that the playing is skilled, and the standards played with competence and passion. You see the musicians at table when they have played their set.

Oh, the food? I’ve never had a bad Italian meal, even in the back streets of Palermo, though some have been indifferent. Here it’s Italian Brazilian, which is prepared with a somewhat heavier hand – pasta is thicker and doughier, sauces more salty, flavours less balanced and refined – competent, satisfying and popular though it is. In truth, this is a social restaurant rather than a gastronome’s delight, where the ambience is key, whether one is with family or with the stars and the ‘wannabe’ stars. The decor gives you a clue – a long frieze of framed black and white photos of old Sao Paulo, and over the bar, brass plaques commemorate the performers, writers and artists of the metropolis. Lowering your eyes when you finish studying the plaques, another, more obvious function of the bar is crystal clear. Here you can enjoy the delights of your favourite tipple as you observe le tout Sao Paulo. Once you have secured a seat.

A Sao Paulo insititution

It really is called that … this municipal cemitério has a grand entrance. The street opposite ends in a semicircular crescent, now obscured by commercial development. The shops specialise in antique furniture, appropriately enough, whereas the porch shelters the destitute.

On busy Rua Cardeal Arcoverde – named for the first cardinal born in South America

Begun in 1920, since both the Cemitério da Consolação and the Cemitério do Araçá were full, the Cemitério São Paulo extended the opportunity for the socially ambitious literally to build on their reputation with grand tombs and statuary by established sculptors.

Just past the entrance there’s a well-kept memorial to the combatants of the 1932 Sao Paulo Constitutional Revolution, showing the city’s crest.

Their inspiration the law, LEX

The gate is a neo-classical composition, matching the chapel and the records office in style if not in colour scheme.

Both the sober entrance framing the city and…

… the chapel of rest flanked by funerary cypresses show us peace above, PAX

A crucifix stretched out in the sun beside the records office

You’re struck by the profusion of statuary, especially of the human figure in every attitude of grief.

Unusually strong male statue strikingly installed

The sloping site positively writhes with humanity in vistas and avenues.

Metropolis and necropolis

The cemetery is a welcome patch of nature in its urban surroundings, providing quiet, fresh air and cool shade, though as in the surrounding city, every available space is used.

Niches in the perimeter walls

While there are some grave sites for professional groups …

The final curtain

Mausoleum for nuns of the Brazilian order Missionarias de Jesus Crucificado

… and for individuals …

Italian first conductor of Sao Paulo Conservatorium watched over by van Beethoven

… the vast majority are family vaults, and focus on their dynasties from both sides of the family, emphasising the male line.

Individuals pass on, we continue

Their names are from Italy, Lebanon, Japan and Armenia  as well as from Portugal. The iconography is largely Roman Catholic, with classical and Masonic allusions too –

Cristo Redentor, the Good Shepherd at the Door, the broken column

Masonic temple in miniature

Even Shinto veneration of one’s ancestors appears in syncretist Brazil

– in this context, meaning accrues readily.

” … shall be raised indestructible.”

Tile work makes an occasional appearance.

Mother and child, family tomb

Statuary in metal and in stone is finely wrought.

Shepherd boy and charges

Colour and texture effectively deployed

Marble crisply carved, whether in close-up …

… or complete piece

The mausoleums are well built, with careful detailing.

Drainage for planter boxes

Some measures have been taken against the ravages of the twentieth century – air pollution, for example – and there are almost no graffiti.

Art Nouveau work with near a century’s accumulation of grime

This angel remains snow white

Some memorials were prettily and deliberately conservative in the 1920s.

Angel in bas-relief under Romanesque arch with acanthus-leaf capitals

Some embraced the future with a will.

Memorial to a son in the Italian air force

Some symbols are updated in style, or used in a less obviously religious way.

The Via Dolorosa winds around a funerary vase

Image of the statue of Nossa Senhora da Conceição Aparecida, patronne of Brazil

Young woman enveloped by a stiff cloak – perhaps alluding to the venerated statue

The worship of Mary is a recurring theme in Brazilian Catholicism, with appearances as the Virgin and as the Mother of God.

From the life of Mary in bronze, the family name and “Ave Maria” carved high on the obelisk

Modern mother and child

Obelisk or chapel, traditional or modern, family or individual, even Christian or not, all kinds are gathered here.

For a priest, a chapel …

… complete with altar, Islamic inscription, Candomble offering … ?

… and angels above

Small but functional family chapel

Family tomb by leading Brazilian sculptor Victor Brecheret

Jesuit tomb for Maluf family – perhaps less keen to highlight construction now

(See http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-20373040 )

Sure of salvation through living right …

Traditional grouping with traditional message

… or trusting in God at the last trump …

At St Peter’s gate

… when the final preparations are made,

Fear no more the heat o’ the sun

a door does seem an appropriate symbol.

Chapel of rest

Life in Sao Paulo always seems to be book-ended by tower blocks – unless you live in an expensive suburb like the Jardims, where the height of development is curtailed, or in a gentrifying suburb like the slice between Avenida Faria Lima and the Pinheiros Marginal ring road – see

https://theproverbial.org/2012/08/16/regeneracao-gentrificacao/

– where the tower blocks are commercial, not yet residential. In Pinheiros, residential towers are springing up on available plots, though the apartments being sold off plan are not moving as easily as once they did.

A pair of towers face each other …

You notice that in a suburb like Itaim Bibi, which has been developed as a business and residential district for some time, the property owners and their architects seem to be competing for landmark status.

… across the street in Itaim

It becomes a bragging contest, in which money talks.

Itaim landmark not just in its own street, with pretensions to the status of the Copan Building

Close up, it's huge

Close up, it’s huge

The retail branches of banks – they do very well in Brasil on a level of customer service which expatriate Anglo-Saxon customers find surprisingly inadequate – are dotted about the city. Their investment in branch property is modest, but well presented.

Lighting outside bank branch off Rua Henrique Schaumann

The chic boutiques display their wares cautiously for the emerging middle class. You sense a precariousness about their existence which does not seem to be shared by the banks.

Show room dummies on Rua Henrique Schaumann

Alongside, on the hoardings of building sites, street art flourishes briefly.

Next door to the showroom

And in the interstices between developments, the poor make a living.

Catadores – recyclers – are a familiar sight in Sao Paulo, pulling their handcarts laden with metal, wood, or most often cardboard, through heavy traffic. Their efforts contribute to an admirable and economic 76% of cardboard produced by Brasil being recycled. More at

http://www.gringoes.com/articles.asp?ID_Noticia=1312

They recycle cardboard, support their childen – the family sleeps behind this fence tonight

The cheerfulness of most Brasilians in the face of such differences in prosperity, whether or not during the traditional season of goodwill, gives one pause for thought, and much hope for Brasil’s future …

Traditional Christmas trees, Sao Paolo style

… even book-ended by such disparities in prosperity. Perhaps that is not the problem we perceive it to be.

Just another tower in Itaim …

… reflecting its neighbour across the street

The Church and Convent of São Francisco (Convento e Igreja de São Francisco) in Salvador is a well-known tourist destination – its gilt woodcarving is deliberately and overpoweringly impressive. You may have seen it in Michael Palin’s recent BBC documentary series on Brazil. A church of the Franciscan monastic order, the current buildings were begun in 1686 (the convent) and 1708 (the church) though decoration of the interiors continued through the first half of the 18th century.

Praça Anchieta, Pelourinho, Salvador de Bahia

The church is set at the end of a long narrow square – named for one of the first Jesuit missionaries to Brasil in the 16th century, José de Anchieta  – off the main square in Pelourinho, the historic town centre.

The cross on the praça is a 19th century addition.

Its facade is in the early baroque style, with large elaborate volutes which support the central gable, and make the composition a little top-heavy …

Central gable flanked by campanile towers with mother-of-pearl tiles

… though it works well close up. You enter via a porch to the right.

Painted perspective on the ceiling of the porch.

Built between 1749 and 1755, the porch is an impressive piece of interior decor, with panels painted on wood, and a striking illusionist ceiling painted by José Joaquim da Rocha in 1774. It’s a bravura display of skill in baroque composition, albeit in paint. Panels in blue and white tile work (azulejos) are a 1782 addition.

Cloisters of the Franciscan monastery, with salvaged stone

From this dark paneled and painted chamber, you emerge into a cloistered stone courtyard lit by a fiercely blue sky. It’s as though you’ve traveled three centuries from inside a Renaissance cabinet of curiosities to step into a surrealist Giorgio de Chirico painting.

The inner walls of the cloister are decorated with azulejo tile panels based on the work of 17th century Flemish artist Otto van Veen, who produced engravings illustrating epigrams from Roman poet Horace.

“Estarás seguro se viveres bem.”

The choices are gloomy and perhaps inevitably sententious – there is much brooding on death and the fate of sinners, as well as on the virtue of knowing your place and of being thrifty. The tiles are held in place by crude repairs and patches in places – an unintentional effect is to underline the ‘tempus fugit’ theme, but sometimes the effect is comic too.

Scrambled sage

The worthy scholar’s confused mien is understandable – he looks like he’s trapped in a sliding number puzzle.

This looks like an architectural salvage yard.

Tile collage

Van Veen taught Pieter Paul Rubens for a number of years, and produced a number of ’emblem books’ which influenced and served as source material for many later artists.

However bright the skies, nothing can prepare you for the blinding interior of the church, said to be the best example of the igreja dourada or ‘golden church’ style of Brazilian colonial baroque.

Nave with side chapel and pulpit, Igreja de São Francisco, Salvador da Bahia

The splendour of the surfaces, the elaborateness of the carving, the spiralling columns, the profusion of decoration on every available surface, the almost total absence of straight unadorned line, even the choice of complementary colours – white and blue – all are designed to overwhelm the worshipper with the gilded glory of this church.

I found myself looking for a more restful surface on which to focus. The ceiling over the altar was a little quieter.

Gilded painted vault with cherubim over the altar

The nave ceiling was heavily decorated too, but with less gilt.

No rest for the eye

Even the chiaroscuro of a bright window offered some respite from the blazing glory of the dourada style.

Beautifully carved and decorated oriole window high up in the nave

Your eye may alight and rest on the dark lustre of carved jacarandá wood, the work of Frei Luis de Jesus ‘The Woodcarver’, for which this church is also justly famous.

Finial on railing of side chapel

If your eye falls below the handrail, you may wonder how or indeed why the monks were able to decorate their church with such voluptuous sway-backed acolytes.

Dark beauty

At the altar the caryatids are fair and gilded, with pink hands and faces.

Upholding the word of God

And above the altar an unusual crucifix, after the image by the Spanish painter Murillo, shows Jesus embracing founder St Francis of Assisi.

http://www.wikipaintings.org/en/bartolome-esteban-murillo/saint-francis-of-assisi-embracing-the-crucified-christ

But wait, even allowing for fervent religious imagination, no one swept up at the Crucifixion …

Do my eyes deceive me?

High up on the altar, a workman calmly and carefully sweeps up the dust. Another man was going around replacing light bulbs. I found myself resting my eyes on their activity.You welcome such visual interest in the goldstorm of this interior.

Man at work

My perception was truly confused – was this holy water font, donated by Dom João V of Portugal (‘O Magnânimo‘), golden or not? Deliberately chosen no doubt to allude to the dourada style, it is made of yellow conglomerate. Dom João also donated the Horace / van Veen azulejos.

One of a pair at the entrance to the church

When you learn that a fifth of each ton extracted from the gold and diamond mines of Brasil was crown property – Portugal is said to have collected more gold over a few decades than Spain took from the rest of Central and South America over 400 years – and that Dom João was also known as O Freirático because of his preference for nuns as sexual partners, the interior of this church comes into clearer focus.

Dowry donation boxes

Brasilians are philosophical about such cultural history. This piece of furniture in the sacristy was used as a kind of ecclesiastical safety deposit box, where the fathers of prospective brides placed money for their daughters’ dowries and presumably for the cost of their weddings. No visitors to the church were surprised that behind the regularity of its squared facade, some doors gave onto bigger boxes than others.

In 1742 Dom João suffered a stroke which left him, the erstwhile Prince of Brasil, politically ineffectual. He spent the last years of his life, the time of his donations to this church, devoted to religious activities.

Unintended humour of labeled statue in the vestibule, with Biblical Golden Calf behind

The relaxed attitude – now and during his reign –  of Brasilians to religious life is at one with the syncretist version of Catholicism tinged with west African Yoruba traditions which continues to grow in Brasil today. Is this statue of the Virgin of the Immaculate Conception actually standing on a crescent moon, like the Yoruba goddess Iemenja?

Brasil’s culture swirls with fascinating cross-currents – the Franciscan Igreja de São Francisco faces the Jesuit Catedral Basílica de Salvador across the square, for all the world like rival football clubs. Both are in a district, Pelourinho, named for the public pillory or whipping post used for punishing African Brasilian slaves “pour encourager les autres”. Brasilians accept such seeming contradictions easily.

” … it is in giving that we receive … ” (Prayer of St Francis)

The irony of a church named for a saint the basis of whose Rule was poverty being decorated with an estimated 960 kilograms of golf leaf – not to mention the dormant power of the Roman Catholic Church in a country where the public education system is by common consent a shambles, political corruption is endemic (see

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-20373040

for an example) and the gap between rich and poor significant – is a little harder to accept.

Given the strength of religious feeling in Brasil, you might expect the Museum of Religious Art in Salvador da Bahia to house a significant collection, and to be thronged with visitors. ‘Yes’ to the first, but a clear ‘no’ to the second – the museum has excellent collections of religious statuary, paintings, silver and other artefacts, but the attendant told us that visitor numbers had been affected by the European downturn, since that is the origin of the majority of visitors.

Entrance with finely carved gate

The museum was built as a Barefoot Carmelite monastery between 1667 and 1697, serving as a seminary from 1837 to 1953. It’s tucked down the Rua do Sodré, off the busy Rua Carlos Gomes thoroughfare. An unfashionable down-at-heel area, the architectural heritage is nevertheless of high quality, both the Museum itself and some neighbouring buildings. Security is evident and cautious. We were advised by the parking attendant to be wary, but we saw family life going on too – sons visiting older parents – in the same street. From the Museum, the view over the Bahia de Todos os Santos is lovely.

Elegant town houses nearby, squatted for now

The scrolling volutes of the facade suggest an interesting building, and the interior does not disappoint. Seventeenth century tiles – azulejos – showing flora and fauna and religious imagery line the eight confessional niches and the walls, and also appear on the facade of the church. The confessionals, built as part of the original church so that monks could hear confession without leaving the monastery, are unique in Brasil.

A plain and elegant interior – round sandstone arches and a white plastered vaulted ceiling over sandstone Doric columns – is crowned with a simple cupola. The floor of polished wood burial niches is divided by stone courses. Only the altarpiece is ornate, made of finely wrought silver and silver gilt, with a Madonna floating above.

Early baroque facade

You need to remind yourself that this is a museum, not a church. What’s perhaps more surprising is that building was in serious disrepair before the Museum was transferred there in 1957. That was the initiative of the Rector of the Federal University of Bahia (UFBA) Edgar Santos Rego, a key figure in the cultural life of Salvador and of Brasil. Though it’s not much visited by Brasilians, it is a popular venue for wedding ceremonies.

Salvaged tile-work collage left of the entrance

You are directed and supervised carefully around the collection by the attendants. The Museum discourages photography, so you will have to imagine the charming details of this interior – on the hand basin for officiating clerics, bronze taps in the shape of dolphins against quatre-foils of madder and veined black marble, leaping deer and piping birds on the auzulejos, the light, cool, spacious interior, the arrays of male and female saints – separated in image as in religious life – mounted in serried rows on the walls of an upstairs room. Or you could visit it in person. It’s a worthwhile and refreshing detour from the tourist trail.

http://www.museudeartesacradabahia.com.br/

On the south-west edge of the Sao Paulo connurbation, Embu maintains an identity distinct from the urban sprawl of its enormous neighbour. The centro histórico is a series of cobbled streets with brightly painted stuccoed houses, and shops and restaurants serving the tourist trade. Elsewhere in town there are collections of shops selling ‘arty’ furniture – heavy wooden mock-rustic chairs, kitchen and console tables, wrought iron chandeliers, gates and panels, pool-side furniture, sculptures made from scrap car parts – but in the centre the work is finer.

Picturesque houses and market stalls on every street of the old centre

The shops and stalls sell a wide array of paintings – naive, realist, Brasilian and European landscapes, abstract and op-art – and sculpture, all kinds of handcrafts, bric-a-brac, food and drink, semi-precious stones and jewellery, carpets, and antiques. The better quality antiques, some as early as eighteenth century, come from the fazendas or large farms – Marcelo Aguila has a tall library bookcase including steps and a landing wide enough to accommodate an armchair. He also has a set of four white-glazed earthenware statues of women portraying the seasons, and a pair of console tables of jacaranda wood with marquetry tops and ivory detailing.

Views across Largo dos Jesuitas …

There are lace and fabric handcrafts, wooden objets d’art and utensils, and hats and other clothing for sale, and a specialist pet market. An excellent silversmith sets a wide range of Brasilian stones. A forro duo play accordion and pandeiro – like a  tambourine – on a street corner. A clown in full costume offers to make balloon animals.

… down Rua Boa Vista …

The  covered terraces of restaurants are filled with day-trippers enjoying food, drink and live music, some even dancing in the lunch-time crowd. The sun beats down fiercely, though the dark clouds piling up bring lightning and heavy rain later. Not one, but two ‘living statues’ perform in the main square – see above and below.

… and towards Rua Nossa Senhora do Rosario

We have lunch at the excellent Emporio Sao Pedro, a business which has successfully combined food and antiques for a number of years. A James Taylor sound-alike troubador sings and plays guitar in accented English. The restaurant’s address, the steep Viela das Lavadeiras or Laundress’ Alley suggests something of the history of the town centre.

View from the verandah of the Emporio Sao Pedro, Viela das Lavadeiras

As in much of Brasil, European settlement was led by the Jesuits, who established a church here in 1554, later adding a monastery, which buildings today form the Museu de Arte Sacra dos Jesuitas. Built to a simple rectangular plan with high white walls, blue shuttered windows and a pan-tiled roof, the church is both elegant and cooly functional.

Museu de Arte Sacra dos Jesuitas, Embu das Artes

The white walls, plain wooden floor and ceiling help to focus attention on the ornately carved and painted baroque wooden altar pieces, with twisted columns framing illuminated saints, a central crucifix and a monochrome Madonna above. Clerical vestments are displayed as if kneeling, wooden candelabra are backlit on the altar. A carved balcony decorated with the monogram of the Society of Jesus juts out of the right-hand wall at first-floor level, presumably for the principal of the monastery to be able to address the lay faithful.

The view north from the Jesuit monastery

The construct is intensely theatrical, the large bare space for the audience focused on the miraculous images in the cabinet beyond the fourth wall of the altar rail, the front row reserved for the brothers now at rest beneath the polished wooden panels let into the floor, the decorated balcony ready to broadcast the devotional word of the Society. Out in the brothers’ cloistered garden, a plain cross is picked out with red flowering plants and a white gravelled border behind a low clipped hedge.

Though the museum has a rich holding of religious art, artefacts and architecture, you can sense in the simplicity of how its message is formulated that the organisation is trying to reach beyond its history to its mission – AMDG, ad maiorem Dei gloriam, to the greater glory of God. The Google Earth satellite view below of the Society’s monogram in the garden at Embu – zoom in, right hand side – continues to broadcast its devotion.

https://maps.google.com/maps?q=embu+das+artes&ie=UTF-8&ei=NiiUUOq6C8LL0AHB0IC4Dw&ved=0CAsQ_AUoAg

I am reminded by this view, by the street-names in Embu, by the dedication of the museum volunteers, by the everyday use of expressions like “Nossa!” – for Nossa Senhora – and “Graças a Deus” – Thanks be to God – how intensely religious a culture is Brasil.

To the north of Salvador da Bahia the beaches stretch out along the coast below the toll road up on the ridge known as the BA099 or the Estrada do Coco. Growing coconut palms is still a major agricultural activity here. The beaches are famous too – Porto da Barra and our destination, Itapoã or Itapuã, have been immortalised in song.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ljxP777W0F0

The coast suffers from classic characterless ‘ribbon’ development, but it does boast historic landmarks like the lighthouse fort at Barra, built on a rocky spur which catches the breezes.

The Farol da Barra or Farol de Santo Antônio 

Since 1686, the lighthouse warns of a sandbar (barra) where a galleon was wrecked.

Entrance to the Forte de Santo Antônio da Barra

These days the message is a warning of another kind. Here’s the mascot for the FIFA 2014 World Cup, an endangered three-banded armadillo from the North-East which rolls itself into a ball when threatened.

Living statue and ‘Brazuca’

Organisers plan to use one of three names for him, to be announced in November, but an Adidas-sponsored FIFA survey suggests that he will be known as Brazuca, an informal word for Brazilian national pride.

The Atlantic coast or orla signals a discernible change in climate, cooler and windier than in the lee of the Bahia de Todos os Santos.

Along the orla

At Itapoã there are other attractions besides the beach. The Lagoa de Abaeté is a freshwater lake set in sand dunes not far from the coast. For followers of candomble, it’s an important place for the goddess Iemanja who rules the sea and bodies of water.

Lagoa do Abaeté with white horse – abaeté meaning ‘real man’ in indigenous Tupi 

More prosaically, it’s also been a spot for washerwomen to carry out their work since the days when it was a small fishing village. In the late 1970s regulated and unregulated development grew, and people took sand for building work or actually lived in the dunes. The lagoon and dunes, and a washerwomen’s association, were made a metropolitan park in 1993.

At the Abaeté gazebo, with keyboard player and roving singer left

The park includes a gazebo which overlooks the lake. It’s open on all sides, with canopies over tables and chairs, and a good number of cafes and purveyors of food and drink. Every cafe has its own musical entertainment – food, drink and especially live music are essential for an enjoyable time in Brasil. As always, the audience of regulars knew the words and sang along.

Shady side of the gazebo, with seafood-sponsored musicians

Judging from a glimpse of the favelas in the back blocks of Itapoã, this was a clearly more pleasant place to spend a hot Sunday afternoon.

The usual vendor of refrigerantes or cold drinks – taped styrofoam box full of ice and cans – with message on kiosk: “Jesus leads to truth and life”

The Bahian speciality acarajé made with ground black-eyed peas deep-fried in palm oil is cooked and sold around the gazebo. A staple of Bahian cuisine said to be the Yoruba inspiration for Arabic falafel, it’s offered to the gods in candomble ceremonies.

Legend in her own lunchtime, vendedora de acarajé Ana

We had driven very slowly up to Abaeté past a school which was serving as a polling station, since the state elections were being held that day. The school was thronged with people who had been bussed in by the political parties to vote, and the footpaths were a blizzard of voting cards.

Drifts of election cards along the footpaths, thrown out of trucks in handfuls

Officially alcohol can’t be sold on election days until the voting has closed, but in Bahia the restriction is not taken seriously. In the balmy air, warm with the occasional breeze, scented with the blossoms of the park, sitting in the shade with a drink and live music to enjoy, the travails of politics seemed to retreat to their proper perspective.

Flowers vivid against Bahian sky

In the old centre of São Salvador da Bahia de Todos os Santos (‘Salvador‘ or more often ‘Bahia‘), you can sense the fresh breezes from All Saints’ Bay (‘Bahia de Todos os Santos‘), but a view of it is more difficult. In the upper town or Cidade Alta, the two- and three-storey buildings block your view with a beauty of their own, while in the lower town or Cidade Baixa you glimpse it at sea level from between the buildings of the industrial waterfront, or right down on the beach.

Flying into the city of Salvador, third largest in Brasil

Elevador Lacerda between the high town and the low town of Salvador Bahia

Walking through Pelourinho on our first night, I was drawn to a restaurant which offered views of the bay from its terrace. A quick stroll along the Rua das Portas do Carmo confirmed that it was an attractive option – we visited the Mamma Bahia restaurant on the same street the following evening.  https://theproverbial.org/2012/10/13/salvador-street-life/

Hotel Casa do Amarelindo is a 10-room hotel in Pelourinho which also serves the public in its restaurant and at the panoramic bar let in to the roof on the fifth floor. The owners have restored this nineteenth century town house with care, preserving floor tiles, wrought iron and plaster-work, and decorating with imagination, in strong yellow (amarelo) and other colurs.  http://www.casadoamarelindo.com/  The view, even at night, is not its only attraction.

Trompe-l’oeil tiling at the entrance

Wrought iron grille to interior, original wood carvings in lobby

In the lobby they display and sell the work of woodcarver Miguel Morois, originally from Uruguay though a citizen of Bahia for the last forty years. He portrays the gods or orixas of the Yoruba candomblé religious tradition, sharing the space with figures which appear more Western. More at   http://brasilart.org/2012/10/23/miguel-morois-brasilian-sculptor/

Xango, god of thunder and justice, his tool the double-headed axe, with
Iemanja, goddess of the sea and fecundity, her tool the silver mirror

Once more you see the cross-fertilisation of the Portuguese Christian and the Yoruba candomblé traditions: these figures bear more than a passing resemblance to the carved saints of the Catholic churches.

Jesus, saint and angel in the Catedral Basílica de Salvador

If you look carefully, you see the African influence in the Christian tradition too. Some painters and wood-carvers of the baroque Bahia churches were indigenous and African, the traces evident in their work.

Carved and gilded images in the nave of the Catedral Basílica de Salvador

It’s no surprise that the figures being created now have mixed characteristics. This is the Archangel Michael of Chrisitian, Jewish and Muslim tradition, weigher of souls and defeater of Satan.

Archangel and fallen angel

She is the African goddess Iemanja (see also https://theproverbial.org/2012/07/10/mermaid/ ) , her colours light blue, pink and white. Is that why she is so pale in this figure from the Afro-Brasilian Museum (MAFRO) in Bahia?

Figure of Iemanja in the Museu Afro Brasileiro

We take the lift to the roof terrace to soak up the fresh night air from All Saints’ Bay and to taste a caipirinha made with best local cachaça (sugar cane spirit) and maracuja (passion fruit) juice.

Panoramic terrace bar at Hotel Casa do Amarelindo

The restaurant downstairs serves an excellent moqueca (seafood stew).

View from restaurant to lobby

I reflect that in Bahia it seems to be possible to have the best of both worlds, a happy combination of old and new, of African and Portuguese, in a beautiful setting. Long may it be so.

Yoruba child god twins (ibejis) / Portuguese Saints Cosmas and Damian

In Brasil, you notice that people sometimes wear at their wrist a length of thin coloured ribbon, with words printed on it. These are the fitas or fitinhas do Bonfim, a kind of lucky charm for the wearer and a souvenir of their visit to Salvador in Bahia. Though they are sold everywhere on the street and in shops in Salvador, they originate from the church of Our Lord of the Good End, a Igreja de Nosso Senhor do Bonfim, on a rise at the tip of the Itapagipe Peninsula in the northern part of the city.

Tradition suggests that if you have the ribbon tied around the wrist with three knots, making a mental request or wish for each knot, and leave the ribbon in place until it falls off through natural wear, your wishes will be granted. Visitors also tie the fitinha to the church railings, or elsewhere on the building.

Fitinhas do BonFim tied to the railings of Nosso Senhor do Bonfim overlooking Bahia

The church is a pleasingly proportioned mid-eighteenth century building, more modest than many of the other well-known churches in Bahia, with a white-tiled facade. It is named for the devotion to Jesus at the moment of his death (the bon fim), imported like many of Brasil’s earlier traditions from Portugal.

Nosso Senhor do Bonfim on Montserrat hill on the Itapagipe peninsula in lower Salvador

The fitas are the length of the right arm of the statue of Jesus crucified, kept atop the altar inside the church and brought out on the feast day, January 6. The ribbon is said to have been used in the nineteenth century for suspending a pilgrim’s medal around the neck. By the 1960s it was being sold on the streets of Bahia, and was adopted by adventurous hippy travellers as a Bahiano accessory.

47-centimetre-long souvenir

What is perhaps less obvious is that the ribbons are in the colours traditionally associated with various West African Yoruba gods or orixas, and that Nosso Senhor do Bonfim is closely identified with the Yoruba deity Oxala, father of the orixas and creator of humankind.

His right arm to guide you

His colour is white. Brasilians have developed the tradition of donning new white clothes at the turn of the year, and other New Year traditions such as going down to the beach and jumping seven successive waves to bring luck for the coming year. And at this most popular of Brasilian churches, there is the evidence of another religious tradition.

The faithful gather from afar to admire the evidence

Described as a museum of ex-voto objects, a side room of the church is festooned with the gratitude and the evidence of the faithful who have been cured of the ailments of their limbs and other body parts. A group of French tourists – also a staunchly Catholic country – were led around by an enthusiastic guide. These additional beliefs seem to accumulate with ease on the margins of the religious environment of Brasil.

Testimonials, photographs, replicas, racquets …

The church has an air of rich calm, born of its generous proportions, good light and the sweet breezes of its elevated position.

Elaborate altar set within simple walls below a painted ceiling

Simple nave, open to the elements

The plain backdrop has the effect of making the more heavily decorated elements – wrought silver lamps, inlaid marble floor, painted and gilded ceiling –  very striking, helped by their well-judged use of materials and proportions. This is a beautiful building.

Finely wrought silver lamp

Strong and simple monochrome floor

Beautifully decorated ceiling over the altar

A believer may of course see the crucified Christ high up on the altar, with the Virgin and child beneath, as the most significant image. And striking a more severe note, a pair of paintings at the entrance remind us of the consequences of our actions, and shows us that the Protestant church did not have a monopoly on visions of hellfire.

Our Lady, Star of the Sea

Death of the sinner – the wages of sin

Institutions of the Roman Catholic church – saints, the confessional – are in clear evidence. They are held in fine balance against the elegance of the baroque architecture of the Age of Enlightenment, and leavened with the richness of African beliefs.

Confessional on show in side passage

Saints wrapped against the dust in the gift shop on the square – and one real for 20 fitinhas

One can certainly imagine that the spectacle on the 6th of January is gripping – a procession from the church of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception on the beach eight kilometres down the coast, led by throngs of Bahiana women in traditional full white lace dresses, who come to wash the steps of the church with perfumed water, to the sound of drums and Yoruba chants. This cathedral of the Diocese of Bonfim can indeed claim to represent Bahia, and perhaps something of the richness of the spirit of Brasil.

January 6 at Bonfim, as per mural at Salvador airport

To the sound of drumming

In the centre of Salvador (São Salvador da Bahia de Todos os Santos), capital of the state of Bahia and of Brasil until 1763 – before Rio, before Brasilia – life on the street is very lively.

Thunderous drumming from the top floor

Its architecture is two- and three-storey baroque town houses, religious buildings and open squares.

Church under renovation, Largo Terreiro de Jesus

The historic Pelourinho core is cobbled though not pedestrianised. It is named for public pillories or whipping posts (now removed) used in the past to punish slaves. The slaves, many of them Yoruba speakers from West Africa, were quartered in the basements of the houses – you wonder how they fared during the brief but heavy downpours here.

Tourist family posing for the camera in borrowed Afro-Brasilian costume

And though the streets are thronged with people, it’s disturbing on a number of levels that you can walk the streets of this UNESCO World Heritage Site because the Afro-Brasilians who lived here were displaced to outlying suburbs, and because of a visible armed police presence.

Hillside village (favela) with not a square inch unused

The Afro-Brasilian heritage is evident from the moment you arrive. Better known as Bahia, Salvador is one of the largest population centres for people of African origin outside Africa – about 80% of the city’s 2.5 million people  are of African or mixed heritage, according to the 2010 census. There seems little racial tension, although the poor, service staff and entertainers are overwhelmingly black, just as in other parts of Brasil.

Sweet-voiced samba singer in the excellent Mama Bahia restaurant, Rua das Portas do Carmo …

… where he looks on from under the street light

Bahianos are well aware of their cultural heritage, whether displayed in the excellent Museu Afro Brasileiro  http://www.mafro.ceao.ufba.br/  (MAFRO), or in public monuments like this bronze of Zumbi dos Palmares  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zumbi  in Largo do Pelourinho.

Spear-wielding seventeenth-century African Brasilian resistance leader, with boarded-up cinema behind

They also know about the non-African Bahiano heritage – a policeman identified for us with pride the building now housing MAFRO as the first medical school in Brasil (in 1808 when the Portuguese Court moved to Brasil, I discover). At the time of the expulsion of the Society of Jesus from Brasil in 1759, it was the largest Jesuit college outside Rome.

Now MAFRO, ex-Jesuit College, ex-Royal Military Hospital, ex-medical school

Circular (lecture?) room behind ex-medical school, over-run now by stray cats

Just down the street we found health services of a more popular nature.

The Old Black snuff (rapé), good for colds, sinusitis, headache, migraine, asthma … and snoring? (roncaria)

An appealing aspect of this historic centre – and characteristically Brasilian – is the mix of high and popular culture. Like the local moqueca (fish stew), it makes for a delicious whole. And there is much more to sample on the Bahiano menu.

Quilt in fabric craft shop near Terreiro de Jesus

Floor of sacristy, Catedral Basílica de Salvador

God’s big tent: the cathedral from morro Santa Teresa

Surrounded by hills or morros, the centre of Rio is crammed with buildings old and new. The old testify to its former glory, the new to a resurgence of prosperity and pride. The view from morro Santa Teresa – named for its convent but known until the mid-eighteenth century as morro Desterro, the hill of exile – is panoramic.

Old Cathedral interior, also variously a Royal, an Imperial and a Carmelite Convent chapel

The Old Cathedral on Guanabara Bay is theatrical in its colours, its furnishings and its configuration, something of a pocket opera house for the pageant of royalty. A witness to Brasilian history, it has seen Royal and Imperial weddings, baptisms, funerals and coronations, and the signing of the Imperial Constitution.

Kingdom to Empire, to Republic and beyond, Brasil is still an overwhelmingly Roman Catholic country, so a new cathedral was certain. Protracted negotiations between Church and State secured a new site, and the modern cathedral was built between 1964 and 1976, to a design by architect Edgar Fonceca, and dedicated to Rio’s patron saint. Not to the glory of King or Emperor, but for the city’s people under the slings and arrows of poverty. Its conical form and its use of concrete remind you of Liverpool Cathedral, but its ziggurat steps are distinctively Latin American. Or is it volcanic in its shape and colour?

At the entrance to the Cathedral, cool polished concrete provides an open welcome

Inside, it’s a huge space, seating five thousand, with standing room for more. Its shape gives you a soaring echoing space – filled when we were there with recorded Gregorian chant – and a beautifully quiet and even coolness too, a welcome relief from the traffic clamouring and grinding its way past the flight of steps below the broad apron.

It is an appropriately contemplative space, a welcome luxury in a crowded city, its cool gloom a refuge and its walls a shield against the everyday.

One of four, this southern panel opposite the main entrance depicts the unity of the Church

The four coloured panels – plastic rather than glass – rise to the arms of the clear Greek cross which forms the summit’s rooflight. Visitors and worshippers move quietly about the space, not a boat-shaped nave but circular. A cool breeze plays softly on your arms and face. Calm descends.

St Francis of Assisi admonishing a dove, by Sao Paulo sculptor Umberto Cozzo

When you rise from your pew, or complete your circuit of the Cathedral, you emerge gently into the heat and light of the day, refreshed, more at peace. Whether or not you are a believer, what the sanctuary offered here is effective, leaving you a little stronger, a little calmer, a little more prepared to meet the world and all its works.

http://www.catedral.com.br/

View from morro Corcovado with Hipódromo da Gávea

Rio de Janeiro, named Cidade Maravilhosa by its proud inhabitants, is built in one of the great natural settings for a city – an excellent natural harbour, broad beaches, thickly wooded hills almost to the water’s edge, a lagoon, a warm-to-temperate climate, and abundant flora and fauna.

Flora on the ascent to the summit of Corcovado

A troupe of monkeys in residence in an abandoned hotel on the way to Corcovado

Rio cloudscape from the Corcovado summit

Rio pushes right up to the hills

Rio’s Centro is a poignant mix of grandeur and decay, reminding us that it was once the sophisticated capital of a wealthy country.

Centro street lighting of breath-taking splendour

Facade awaiting restoration, Centro

Plannned in 1602 as an aqueduct, Arcos da Lapa became a viaduct for bondes tram in 1896

Centro Art Deco cinema with tiled capitals

Rio’s great institutions are still in place, albeit with their roles adapted to this century.

Ex-Imperial chapel on Praça Quinze de Novembre, now a Carmelite church

Still a Carmelite hospital, with sculpture in courtyard, Centro

Other institutions adapt too – Scotland never saw a ‘kirk’ like this.

Presbyterian church at night, Rio Centro 

You may wonder where the famous sights of Rio are  – Cristo Redentor, Sugarloaf, the beaches. There are many images of them, and they ARE spectacular, but in this cidade linda (beautiful city), even the everyday and the decayed catch your eye.

One Rio institution which has resisted change is the Bar Luiz. Founded in 1887, the original building is more or less intact – only the name and the address have changed, resisting war, demolition, and renovation. (See its history at  http://www.barluiz.com.br/)

A long day of sight-seeing draws to a memorable close in these surroundings. When we dined there, the waiter told us that the original off-white geometric floor tiles were not replaced as planned, ‘because the customers wouldn’t hear of it’. It is said to serve “o melhor chope do Rio de Janeiro”, the best glass of beer in town. Saúde!

Rua da Carioca, 39, Centro

Moon and stars ceiling light, Julio Prestes Cultural Center / Sala Sao Paulo

Concerts at the Sala Sao Paulo tend to be spoken of by venue rather than by performer or composer, and you soon see and hear why. From here, coffee from the interior of Brasil was taken by rail to Santos to be shipped to the world. This building has led many lives.

Ex-entrance hall, Estação JP

These days the acoustics of the former Julio Prestes railway station or ‘JP’ are world-famous. It is compared with the best classical music venues, which whether by ‘feel’ – Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw – or by acoustic science – Boston’s Symphony Hall – were purpose-built. All the more commendable that the happy accident of the station’s ‘shoebox’ shape was enlisted for the permanent home of the São Paulo State Symphonic Orchestra OSESP.

Cast iron stairway, HQ of Estrado Ferro de Sorocabana

On Sundays at 1100 am the Sala holds a regular free Matinais concert. The house rules – no eating or drinking, no wearing of shorts, no clapping between movements – suggest an educational remit for this joint State and Federal government project.

Former open-air courtyard of the Estação JP

Last Sunday the Sala hosted the Orquestra Sinfônica de Santo Andre, under the baton of Carlos Eduardo Moreno. The traditional programme – Beethoven’s Fifth, a bassoon concerto by von Weber – showed off this regional orchestra to perfection. Strong instrumental playing and a beautifully controlled ensemble responding vivaciously to the Maestro’s reading gave a capacity audience some spine-tingling moments.

Concert platform

The acoustic is indeed excellent. While the glories of the 1920s neo-classical building are preserved, the main focus of the restoration was the sound: the suspended adjustable ceiling, the sound-absorbing floor, the ‘air lock’ entrances, the thermo-acoustic roof, the placing of the seats, all were designed to optimise the flow of sound. US specialists Artec created an auditorium in 1999 which eliminated the noise of passing trains. The trains no longer run, but the acoustic is outstanding, crisp though not too dry, and the hall is a pleasure to run your eyes over as you enjoy the music.

Orquestra Sinfônica de Santo Andre in action

The enthusiasm of the 1500-strong audience confirms the wisdom of this spend, an investment in the long-term health of Sao Paulo’s musical life. Yet this miracle of a concert hall is just a few blocks away from the current Metrô station, the Estação da Luz, and the desperate and destitute who frequent the Jardim da Luz over the road.

Campanile of the Estação JP from the Estação da Luz

Searching for the Sala, we mistakenly parked alongside Luz, and asked the locals who had appeared from nowhere for directions to the Sala. They indicated the Estação da Luz, and suggested we should pay them to look after the car, to prevent it from being scratched. This being a fact of Sao Paulo life, I gave them R$10 as we got out of the car. It was then that we were told that the Sala was a few blocks walk away, in the other direction. We drove on wiser and they R$10 richer. The contrasts of life in Sao Paulo were thrown into sharp relief.

http://www.osesp.art.br/portal/paginadinamica.aspx?pagina=salasaopaulo

www2.santoandre.sp.gov.br/page/1524/34

This bar is clearly a Sao Paulo institution, and it knows it. “Founded in 1948 by German Henrique Hillebrecht” as the web site has it, the downtown bar has witnessed much of Sampa’s history, and played its part in its rise – music, food, political debate – and decline, closing in the neglect of the 1990s which seemed to afflict much of Sao Paulo’s Centro. The substantial turn-of-the-century Edificio Independencia office block of which it is the ground floor stands empty now. The landmark Copan Building around the corner experienced a similar rise and fall. See  https://theproverbial.org/2012/08/04/feijoada-copan/

The management imagines Sao Paulo’s Bohemian set “thankful” and “reverent” at its resurgence in 2001 “on the most famous corner of the city”. It claims an enticingly varied musical and gastronomic offering. Quite a reputation to live up to. Tonight the music comes from Paulistana roots sambista Carolina Soares, who appears regularly.

What we have here is a music emporium. On the Boulevard terrace, the traditional Riverboat’s Jazz Band – trumpet, banjo, washboard, euphonium – complete with straw boater hats and red or black sleeve suspenders play New Orleans tunes for the punters while the parking manobristas drive away and return cars. They are playing as we go in, and still in full swing two hours later. They’re good, even with the over-familiar tunes.

Riverboat’s Jazz Band, “considered one of the foremost traditional jazz bands in the country”

Inside, a singer-guitarist is the first sight to greet you from a high stage. As you go further in, you notice access to an upstairs area – lounge? Internet cafe? tourist information point? all three? – as you thread your way through to the Salão Principal where the main act performs. Handsome thick dark green tiling curves away down a service corridor. The main room is already crowded and, without a reservation, a table beside the service entrance is the best you can expect. Nevertheless the carpaccio salad was good and the service attentive.

Salão Principal, Bar Brahma, Sao Paulo Centro

A choro group  – cavaquinho, mandolin, guitar and pandeiro – play the familiar repertoire well, though the PA obscures their sound, and the crowded room of birthday celebrants, drinkers, diners and dancers pay scant attention. Called Choro Brejeiro – Provocative Choro – they also appear here regularly.

By the reaction of the audience, the main attraction is undoubtedly Caolina Soares. She makes a striking entrance, buoyed by an instrumental build-up from her band and setting her stamp on the evening with her presence. Tall and Juno-esque, she sways and turns gracefully in an eye-catching yellow-gold figured silk gown which she clutches and twitches as she performs.

Sambista Carolina Soares with band. Note goofus player.

She too is a Sao Paulo institution, a regular performer during carnaval and at the Sambódromo, who also tours internationally. The crowd knows the lyrics well and sings along as she praises the girls from Rio Grande do Sul, and sings of love and desire. This is MPB (Musica Popular Brasileira) with a samba tinge.

The Bar is expert at giving its customers what they want: they also operate bars at the Aeroclube Sao Paulo, the capital Brasilia and now in Alphaville in Sao Paulo. They run a samba school and events such as a vinyl record collectors’ fair at the Sao Paulo Centro bar, and lest you fear they are too MOR, the cutting edge Sao Paulo jazz venue Jazz Nos Fundos programmes live music for them in the adjacent smaller Brahminha. Bar Brahma is indeed as described, “a franchise model developed by the premium new business division of Ambev”.

Paying the bill at Brahma: beer, bar and franchise

Ambev? “A subsidiary of global brewing company Anheuser-Busch InBev and the biggest brewery in Latin America and the fifth in the world.” (Wikipedia). And the name? An Anheuser-Busch brand, “Brahma is a Brazilian beer, originally made by the Companhia Cervejaria Brahma which was founded in 1888.” Bar Brahma is part of a global business, not just a corner bar with good beer and a samba singer.

Brasil is hip. Time Out London publishes a Sao Paulo edition, Macy’s New York has a Brazilian month, Rock in Rio and now ArtRio are international hits  http://riorealblog.com/2012/09/13/artrio-snowballs-into-a-draw-far-beyond-carioca-dreams-the-second-time-around/ , the Forbes September 10 cover girl for a feature on “The 100 Most Powerful Women” is Brasil’s Presidenta Dilma Rousseff. It is time for Brazil to be discovered. Again.

The Impressionist view of Santa Teresa

We Flew Down to Rio and danced The Carioca in 1933. Peggy Lee sang “Caramba! It’s the Samba” in 1948. We sighed over The Girl From Ipanema in Astrud Gilberto’s accented English in 1963. US New Wave singer David Byrne produced a number of Brazilian music compilations – 1989’s O Samba is very good. It’s no accident that we know Brasil through the music of this most musical of nations.

Teatro Municipal do Rio de Janeiro, opened 1909, restored 2010

In reality, Brasil has always developed independently and prolifically. The Rio de Janeiro of the 1920s and 1930s rivalled Paris and London for sophistication, with broad boulevards, grand architecture, modern art (see Semana de Arte Moderna  http://pt.wikipedia.org/wiki/Semana_de_Arte_Moderna )

Exhibition curated by Mário de Andrade and the Group of Five, image by Emiliano di Cavalcanti

and the disposable income which made it possible, in the time of the ‘café com leite’ political settlement of coffee barons and cattle ranchers.

In the old capital Rio, Time Out tells us that “the more adventurous tourists” make their way up the hill to Santa Teresa. Rio is full of such hills, from the morro do Corcovado (Hunchback Hill) on which Cristo Redentor stretches out his arms, to the lesser-known hills which are home to the favelas – originally meaning villages – where Rio’s poor find a place to live. As in Wales, you move down to the better locations as soon as you can.

The view enjoyed from Cristo Redentor

When you take the 014 bus from Centro up the cobbled hill to the Santa Teresa neighbourhood, the ride is exciting – you feel the tyres scrabble for purchase as they slide across the granite setts. The bright yellow trams which were a distinctive feature of the area are being renovated … or has the service been withdrawn because of a fatal accident in 2011? Probably both, if the usual Brasilian story prevails. Expert at making a virtue of necessity, they are proud of their ability to find a way through (um jeitinho). And are the trams really called bondes because when they were introduced they advertised the attractions of European war bonds?

Prosperous from the foot of the hill

You look down on landmarks such as the tent-like canopy of the Catedral de São Sebastião as you ascend.

Downtown from uptown

Amid the mix of crumbling infrastructure and abundant natural growth, you notice something else.

The call of nature must be obeyed

As well as the usual Brasilian signs of enterprise – a dress-maker displaying her wares in a villa window –

Not just dummies

you see that this has been a prosperous suburb for many decades. The 1910s Art Nouveau villas are examples of their type just as beautiful as in Paris, Brussels, Palma or Montevideo.

Villa, Santa Teresa, Rio de Janeiro

Yes, there are trendy restaurants, and more established places too.

Interior of the excellent Bar do Mineiro, Santa Teresa, Rio de Janeiro

And the smart money is already here – properties are being bought and renovated, no doubt with the World Cup and the Olympic Games firmly in mind. When I took a closer look at the beautifully cast brass of this Art Nouveau door furniture, the jobbing builders came out to enquire what it was I wanted.

Door handle, Santa Teresa, Rio de Janeiro

Even the graffiti seem to have a delicate spiralling beauty, compared with the directness of the work you see in Centro. Poets come and sell their self-published work while you are out at dinner. The Saturday evening street market boasts as many fine art painters as crafts stalls.

Santa Teresa mural art, Rio de Janeiro

Santa Teresa has been a Bohemian artistic retreat for many years, a heritage of which the locals are rightly proud. How comfortably it sits alongside the neighbouring favela I could not be sure on my first visit. Sitting on the terrace of the bed-and-breakfast villa overlooking the pool, watching a troop of monkeys scamper along the roof ridge, swing into the garden trees and on up the street, I could not help but decide on a return visit to the beautiful city of which Santa Teresa offers such an alluring prospect. I’m sure I am simply the latest in a long line of admirers.

View from the terrace of the comfortable Villa Laurinda, Santa Teresa, Rio de Janeiro

Bourbon Street, the purpose-built Sao Paulo jazz club named for the street in New Orleans, calls one of its cocktails a Hurricane. Reason enough for it to be empty, but this Thursday holiday evening it was so empty that the upstairs balconies were closed. Sao Paulo is ‘travelling’, fleeing the metropolis for more scenic points – on the beach at the coast, in the mountains in the interior, to the attractions of Rio, anywhere but in the metropolis, which those who are not Paulistanos say drives them crazy. So who was there last night?

Entrance to Bourbon Street Moema, Sao Paulo

The club is a large dimly-lit auditorium, with tables on two levels on the ground floor, a dance floor in front, and upper balconies curving around both sides, supported by slim cast-iron pillars. At the back is a bar, at the front a deep stage, lit from behind through glass brickwork set into the curved back wall. A DJ plies his trade from a balcony. Lighting and sound, played a little too loud as usual, are modern and high-quality. The venue is both public and intimate

Directed to a table under the watchful portrait of Ray Charles, we sat following the patrons dancing to a Brasilian soundtrack. The lively crowd took to the floor readily, more so when Orquestra SAGA arrived  http://www.orquestrasaga.com.br/SAGA/Home.html. They’re a biggish band dedicted to playing Brasilian dance hall (gafieira) music, fronted by Gabriel Moura, son of musician Paulo Moura (for more on Paulo Moura see https://theproverbial.org/2012/07/21/musical-nation/ ). The band is well-connected with previous generations of Brasilian musicians, playing with some of the most famous – singer Seu Jorge, percussionist Wilson das Neves, singer Fabiana Cozza, trombonist Itacyr Bocato. The name of the band? Sociedade Amigos de Gafieira.

Interior Bourbon Street Moema

The couples danced well, the women waiting to be asked by the men and occasionally dancing alone, the men squiring their partners expertly around the spacious dance floor. Many of the dancers knew each other well, perhaps belonged to a club (SAGA?), we concluded, attracted by the gafieira soundtrack. But others in the audience danced just as willingly and as well, and here too, more women than men. All ages, shapes and sizes, some of the men wearing hats inside, in the current fashion, even while dancing. Older men generally were neatly dressed down, the younger ones favouring a more working class look – jeans, and white Tshirts under open checked shirts, or perhaps a striped polo shirt. The hats may be in homage to the SAGA brand – panama hat and co-respondent shoes, though I didn’t spot the shoes.

Orquestra SAGA vocaliste Flávia Menezes

Women, on the other hand, had taken the opportunity to dress up – keyhole dresses, or off the shoulder, with laced-up backs, big hair, some also sporting impossibly high heels even for walking, let alone dancing. None more glamorous than the Orquestra’s singer, whose dress was an alluring confection of dark rose pink, the banded satin serving both to reveal and to conceal in the time-honoured way. Her singing partner Moura – fawn hat over his dreadlocks, ‘unstructured’ buttoned jacket and tie – clearly favoured the working class look.

The music and dancing both excellent, there was an infectious warmth about the occasion which made you wish for more of the same, not just as a ‘preservation’ event but as a regular night out, not only booked for a night when the bar was likely to be otherwise empty, but as popular as in the Rio de Janeiro of the 1930s in which gafieira arose.  http://pt.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gafieira   http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gafieira

House band at Estudantina in Rio de Janeiro, where the gafieira revival began in the 1980s

An annual street festival running since 1926, the Festa de Nossa Senhora Achiropita happens on every weekend in August in the Sao Paulo neighbourhood of Bela Vista. This area alongside the business district of Avenida Paulista is also known as Bixiga. Debates about the origin of this name (bladder? smallpox? balloon?), the exact boundaries of the district, the origin of the largest population group (Calabria? Naples?), the claim to be Sao Paulo’s best night life district (or is it Itaim Bibi? or Vila Madalena?) suggest a lively and disputatious local culture. During Festa, Rua 13 de Maio is crowded with sightseers, loudspeakers blaring Italian popular songs (“Volare – oh oh – cantare – oh oh oh oh”)

Rua 13 de Maio, any weekend in August

The street decorations glitter in the floodlights, the crowds crush into the open street between the stalls. Many are selling the legendary fogazza. It’s described as savoury stuffed pizza dough fried in oil – the stuffing may be spicy cheese or meat. There were more people queuing on the street for it than there were passers-by. Going into the church of Nossa Senhora Achiropita seemed a more inviting prospect.

“Not by bread alone”

Communal life has always been important in Bixiga. An immigrant area, Italians became the dominant group early last century. Their influence can be seen in domestic and street architecture, cuisine, local music and especially in the church and its social welfare provision.

Nossa Senhora Achiropita supports local charities with the proceeds of the Festa, organises food for the destitute, creches, an educational service, and Afro-Brasilian-style worship in the church.

The venerated Madonna hails from Rossano in Calabria http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rossano_Cathedral , an area famous for its marble and alabaster. Sao Paulo was given special permission to dedicate a church to her.

Italian-style social life is thriving here too. Restaurants and bars or cantinas abound. It’s as though a slice of Italian village life  has been transported to Sao Paulo entire.

Cafe des artistes …

Some have been here longer than the Festa itself.

Named for the town near Naples, established 1907, and proud of it

Visitors to the Festa seem subdued, queueing numbly for food in lines behind barriers, pounded into submission by the exuberant sound track, its lyrics lustily sung by stall holders. Strangely, there are no musicians to be seen. At intervals along the street, security guards keep a watchful eye on the crowds from elevated platforms. Bixiga has a reputation as a safe neighbourhood, and clearly wants to keep it that way.

At the top of the street, on the edge of the Festa, young sex workers and their pimps drink a mixture of soft drink and cachaca (sugar cane spirit) around a portable music system. Past the police barriers at the bottom of the street, a slightly wilder festa can be found. Two musicians sit playing inside a makeshift structure – cage? stage? Floodlights and follow-spots on the balcony of a three-storey building opposite illuminate a group of performers beside the musicians.

Street theatre musicians

Actors, both men and women are dressed in flamboyant white gowns, and they wear radio microphones, their dialogue broadcast far and wide. They are followed by a camera-woman. What she shoots is projected onto the building opposite the floodlights.

The performers declaim, playfully stop the slow-moving traffic, and move through the crowd, disappearing and re-appearing while the camera follows them. A red balloon escapes and floats into the night. A bursting red suitcase stuffed with red clothes is carried tragically away. I’m told the target of their satire is the political class. I haven’t seen multi-media street theatre like this since the 1960s.

Their street their theatre

And in the church, another kind of theatre. It’s a riot of brightly painted colours simulating coloured marbles, a humble echo of the richly decorated Catedral da Sé de São Paulo in the same parish, of which the mosaics, the marble and even the organ are the work of Italian artisans between 1913 and 1954. Nossa Senhora Achiropita could well have been their local church.

Carved marble cartouche, one of 16 around the altar, Catedral da Sé

A pair of folk musicians sing a well-meaning but mournful-sounding duet with guitar accompaniment – some things seem the same the world over. A well-spoken priest describes Achiropita’s history and mission, moving seamlessly into a Christian service in the comfortably full church.

Interior, Nossa Senhora Achiropita, Bela Vista, Sao Paulo

And who is the miraculous Madonna, Nossa Senhora Achiropita, invoked in the service? Appropriately in this minor miracle of a painted building, she is the subject of a wall painting in the Rossano Cathedral, a Madonna and child “supposedly discovered in the cathedral plaster and not painted by human hand” (Wikipedia), hence ‘a-chiro-pita’. From this perspective, the humble Achiropita seems as impressive as the mosaics and statuary of the capital’s Cathedral close by.

The work of 20th-century Italian artisans, Catedral da Sé

In Brasilian culture, the visual sense is very strong. Street art and graffiti are everywhere, as regular readers will know. In Vila Madalena today – famous for its murals in “Batman Alley” – the annual street fair had all the usual attractions, but the striking street art is so common it goes unremarked. Why was I taking this picture? people seemed to be wondering. Why not what was going on up there on the stage?

Eyes on the stage, Rua Fidalga, Feira Madalena

One street fair attraction new to me was car customisation Brasilian style. The artist had parked this utility vehicle in the cordoned-off street, covered the windscreen with cardboard, and was concentrating on his spray cans. Was it a moving billboard, a commission, an action art piece? Not sure, but it was eye-catching.

Custom paint job, Sao Paulo style

Everyone carries cameras to record the life around them, whether it’s a choro band – the excellent Choro Blue  http://www.choroblue.org.br/ – playing on the street fair stage, or their own photogenic daughter dancing to them. A well-specified SLR camera is almost as common as a cel phone camera on these occasions.

Instituto de Música Choro Blue setting up

Visual stimulation is appreciated everywhere in this built environment. Something comes to mind: where does the graphic style – bright colours, thick black outlines, conscious interaction with architecture – come from?

Popular young choro,samba and dance musicians being filmed in action

Could it have escaped from here?

Window of the Congregação das Irmãs Passionistas church, Rua Conego Eugênio Leite

Improving literacy is (still) a concern for state education, and a politician may be elected to office literally without being able to read or write. You can imagine that in a pre-literate culture, the stained glass of the churches telling the Biblical stories provided the blueprint for today’s more secular work in this intensely religious country.

Ex shop fitting

Down towards the Marginal Pinheiros, one of Sao Paulo’s ring roads, the street is being dug up. Drainage is being renewed, curbs and surfaces relaid, traffic re-routed. It displaces the locals and confuses the visitor – it seems a sign of something afoot in this suburb.

Gentrification in action on the top floor STOP PRESS Road being re-surfaced

In  nearby areas, properties are renovated, chic boutiques open, restaurants flourish: the growing middle class is bringing prosperity to these city suburbs.  The area is mixed use – a mobile phone supplier below, rented residential above, a seamstress next door.

Judging by the sign, this has been for sale for some time.

Everyday life is disrupted by such development, and the old neighbourhood living patterns broken up.

Displaced fruit vendor still trading

The traces of earlier waves of development are evident. Against local opposition, housing was removed in the late 1960s to make way for the extension of Avenida Faria Lima. Outlines of buildings remain, street art forgotten and overgrown.

Avenida Faria Lima

Sometimes a vista is newly emphasised – a church hoves into view, the foliage of a tree is highlighted.

Waiting for the tarmac

This modern gem seems safe, being a university building.

Universidade Paulista (UNIP) law school building …

The water tower is pure War of the Worlds.

… with … is it a Martian Tripod on the roof?

Complete with green street art

It seems clear that small-scale street life is to be dwarfed by the beautiful behemoths of corporate Brasil, although gallery art is included, as in the Instituto Cultural Tomie Ohtake.

Torrre Faria Lima, and Torrre Pedroso de Moraes housing Instituto Cultural Tomie Ohtake

The corporations support local initiatives like this river water purification project and park hard by the Marginal – and if you could smell the river, you’d understand.

View from Praca Victor Civita

The decking is suspended above layered beds, where maize and bio-diesel plants grow, and rain and river water are filtered. Businesses display their CSR (corporate social responsibility) credentials with pride – there’s a sponsored ‘green school’ with an education and cultural programme run by the Sao Paulo city Prefeitura.

Verdescola and other social responsibility opportunities

The destitute and the yoga class mix warily under the gaze of the towers. Such disparity of opportunity jars. Is this truly the best that can be done?

At the Clube Paineiras do Morumby, a large private members club in the prosperous and leafy Sao Paulo suburb of Morumbi, the Orquestra Pinheiros gave their tenth anniversary concert, a programme of jazz standards and show and film tunes. The club itself  http://www.portal.clubepaineiras.com.br/site/ is 52 years old, a large social, cultural and sports club, built on what was once a tea plantation established by Englishman John Rudge after 1808.

Roof over the restaurant

Roof over the restaurant

The club still has something of the plantation about it, set on an expansive sloping site, the open-air dining area crowded with tables under umbrellas, reminiscent of closely planted tea bushes. The lights of Sao Paulo’s ‘verticalisation’ twinkle on the horizon.

Morumby alfresco 

The club house is built with the familiar Sao Paulo raw concrete.

Ferro-concrete, tile and neon arcade, Morumby

It’s enlivened with colourful tiling and paint, and plays with the inside / outside boundary, apposite for a sports club.

Clube Paineiras Morumby: inside view from outside

The concert takes place in the Cineteatro, where the stage hosts the 35 musicians plus technical support. Later, guest vocalists will  share the stage. It’s an impressively large group which can make a big sound. Murilo Alvarenga, our genial maestro, also sings and is responsible for tonight’s orchestration too. He’s one of the few professional musicians in this group; apart from one or two sitting in, this orchestra plays for the love of it, not the money, practising twice a week. And Sr Alvarenga too is clearly here for the love of the music. His enthusiasm for it is infectious as well as educational, and the audience respond strongly.

Audience for …

As the programme unfolds, they nod in time and tap their feet to the music, occasionally voicing their enthusiastic approval.

… Orquestra Pinheiros …

By the end, they award the musicians a standing ovation and an encore for the last number, the song Sway, composed by Mexican bandleader Pablo Beltrán Luiz in 1953, and most recently popularised by Michael Bublé.

… swaying in Clube Morumby’s Cineteatro

Vocalists Ana Tagliannetti and Rita Valente have fun with their response to the lover’s scenario in the lyrics, bringing this good-natured evening to an enthusiastic close. You wonder if tackling it in Spanish might have added to the fun … here’s the composer’s version, from a 1977 performance for TV.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hti_DB9nyZM&feature=related

Lunch at the Bar da Dona Onça http://www.bardadonaonca.com.br/ on the ground floor of the iconic Copan building in Sao Paulo Centro. Being Saturday, lunch is feijoada, a black bean stew with various cuts of pork – rib, sausage, crackling, ear – and traditional accompaniments like farofa (toasted manioc flour to sprinkle on top), rice and pickles, as well as more unusual accompaniments like banana, mild chili and orange segments, which work well with the heavy fatty cuts of pork. The decor is a stab at period edgy (not original) which works quite well.

Interior of Bar da Dona Onca

But the star of the show is the Copan building, which you see as you approach through traffic, a wave in a sea of rectangles. It’s a huge edifice, 30 storeys at least, with room for 5,000 residents in apartments of various shapes and sizes. Undergoing refurbishment, it’s a recognised architectural landmark by a world-class architect – Oscar Niemeyer – though I have some sympathy with the Paulistano view that “like everything he did, it’s good for taking pictures, but lousy to live in.” (Regina Rheda)

The Copan Building by Oscar Niemeyer from street level

The district around it is full of architectural interest, from the circular tower of the ex-Hilton Hotel …

A hotel, once

… to detailing like this op-art tiling on the alley-way entrance of a neighbouring building.

Down the alley to the neighbours

But the Niemeyer is the Oscar-winning star turn. Gradually abandoned as a central business district and prime residential address in the 1960s, in favour of Avenida Paulista for business and the Jardims for home, it still has the presence to impress, like the Niemeyer-designed Museu de Arte Contemporânea de Niterói in Rio de Janeiro.

Beautiful setting, startling space-age building, Niteroi

That building looks striking, but it doesn’t work well as a museum – awkward entrance, especially when raining, an exterior gallery with blinding reflected light over the water, and artificially-lit gloom in the circular interior – and you ask yourself what the sinuous shape of the Copan means for the internals of its apartments. This is bravura architecture, playing to the strong visual sense of the Brasilian culture, and able to be railroaded through without the hindrance of the cautious UK planning system. Here, function follows form. It says something for the aesthetic sense of Brasil’s elite – not to mention their social awareness – that these are iconic buildings. It’s undeniably and impressively beautiful, and a welcome change from the rectangular.

A hulking beauty

It makes a thought-provoking comparison with what was built 25 years later in Rotterdam: http://blog.padmapper.com/2010/07/28/22-futuristic-apartments-you-need-to-see-to-believe/ striking and futurisitic, but on a smaller scale, and reportedly more user-friendly. What can Brasil do in the same vein? The next few decades will be interesting …

Architect Piet Blom’s tree houses, 1982

The art of graffiti is in rude health in Brasil, certainly in its two main cities. Nothing like an exhaustive survey follows, just a few snapshots, but the variety is astounding, as is the quality. Free street art has never looked so good!

Sometimes you just glimpse it from the car as you go past …

… and sometimes it’s built to the same scale as the skyscrapers.

Sometimes the image uses its architectural setting …

… or the setting can simply provide a bare surface …

… whether buildings or street furniture …

… or simply a wall. A cartoon style predominates, but …

… artists also use complex visual textures, and play with the setting’s colours.

P.S. Here’s the same wall five months later. Same spidery line, same integration with surrounding colour. Subject: Christmas tree?

Near Largo da Batata, December 2012

Near Largo da Batata, December 2012

This excellent piece on Rua Riacheulo in Rio uses an effective mix of styles …

… while this one in Rio’s Santa Teresa sticks with simpler graphics, and ignores setting.

Even at night under artificial light …

… and perhaps being a group effort …

… (reading right to left) …

… the impact is memorable.

It may have been there a long time but …

… when you go past again, it’s worth another look.

On the Sao Paulo Metro underground rail service the Yellow Line or Linha Amarela serves the Faria Lima station. It’s been open for two years, serving a mixture of offices on Avenida Faria Lima, and smaller businesses and residences around Rua Teodoro Sampaio. A busy station, it is designed to connect with bus services which go through the terminal nearby, though much of the development of the surrounding terrain is still to be done.

A long queue for buses; helicopters clatter overhead, afternoon rain clouds mass

It is the first Sao Paulo line to be built privately. Delays caused by accident – a tunnel collapsed – and subsequent investigation and, it’s said, by the slow process of compulsory purchase, have also affected the opening of the next station at Pinheiros, still under construction.