Transforming São Paulo,
One Building at a Time

Transforming São Paulo, One Building at a Time
Lourenço Bustani
  • 19 august 2009


Probably the most prominent name among Brazilian architects today, Isay Weinfeld, is transforming São Paulo – one building at a time.

A son of Polish immigrants, Weinfeld was born and raised in the city that now hosts most of his world-acclaimed projects, such as the Fasano Hotel and the 360o Building, which has recently received the MIPIM Architecture Review Future Project Award for best residential and overall project. Famous for his contemporary style, he believes that architecture must cause some emotion, whether it’s fear, comfort or even a big laugh. His projects are not about the monumental dimensions that made Oscar Niemeyer a star, but about the intimate spaces that bring significance and personality to the microenvironments contained in the urban ecosystem.

The celebrity status he’s earned over the years doesn’t match his reserved personality and his soft voice, but that doesn’t keep him from designing places for celebration and social extravagance, like bars and even a nightclub. It’s in the retail segment, however, that his work is gathering most attention now.


Havaianas’ concept store is a fine example of form meeting function. The 300m2 open space project brings the airy and relaxed mood of the brand to Oscar Freire, the Mecca of São Paulo’s fashion scene. Inside the store, the customer will find the products displayed in an intuitive fashion: export models inside a cargo container, the early models hanging from a flea market tent and so on. A mosaic of skylights in the roof maximizes the natural illumination and there’s also an interactive cube with 51 plasma screens that tell the story of the brand.

His attention to details is also evident in another retail project, this time for Livraria da Vila bookstore. The books there are not only products that are being sold: they became the soul of the bookstore, composing the decoration, the facade and the circulation spaces. Both Livraria da Vila and Havaianas’ projects won gold in the ambiance category at the IDEA/Brasil 2009 Award, a satellite version of the International Design Excellence Award (IDEA).


Paradoxally, Weinfeld is very open about his contempt for São Paulo’s ugliness, reflected in irregular and broken sidewalks and pretentious neoclassic buildings which are occupied by pretentious nouveau riche people. Let’s hope he keeps changing that – one building at a time.

Contributed by Mauricio Soares.


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