Things That I Have Learned In Rio, Brazil

Things I Have Learned In Rio, Brazil

“Travel is the only thing you can buy that makes you richer” Unknown

Rio is named for a river that doesn’t exist. According to tradition, it was first visited in January 1502 by Portuguese explorers, who believed the bay they encountered (now called Guanabara Bay) was the mouth of a river. They named the area Rio de Janeiro, “River of January.”

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Rio was capital of Brazil from 1763 until 1960, when that role was transferred to Brasilia.

Rio’s locals are called carioca (a name also sometimes applied as an adjective to the city itself). It may have come from kari ola, or “white man’s house” in the indigenous Tupi language.

The food scene in Rio is laid-back. ( feijoada)

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You can happily grab some fried bar snacks and a caipirinha to enjoy on the beach, or head straight from the beach to a rodizio (all-you-can-eat). The tropical influence is also evident in the many choices of fruit juice stands (on every corner in Rio), and the abundance of açaí.

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Cariocas  have a habit of putting mustard and ketchup on their pizza. There are also amazing five-star and cool trendy restaurants with delicious food.

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In Brazil, there’s soccer (or futebol) and then everything else. Brazilians are obsessive, diehard fans and just about everyone plays, especially at the beach. Even for the Americans who now grow up playing soccer, your skills are no match for the footwork and volleying on display at the beach in Rio. Even the younger groups of kids are able to pass the airborne ball back and forth, using every part of their bodies from their heads to their shoulders to their knees, like its nothing.

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Rio explodes with energy and color during the five days before Ash Wednesday, when millions take to the streets for the world’s biggest Carnaval. The party starts on the Friday, when the mayor hands over the keys to the city to a man crowned as King Momo, a mythical jester who acts as the head of the festivities. Rio’s Carnival features hundreds of booze-soaked bandas (riotous street parties, often with specific themes) and elaborate balls. The party reaches its height at the Sambódromo, when the best samba schools in the country compete for top prize. On Ash Wednesday Carnival is officially over, and King Momo goes home.Carnaval has been called one of the seven wonders of the world.

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In 2014, Rio de Janeiro legalized street art on many types of city property, turning the already colorful city into an outdoor art gallery. Street artists are allowed to decorate columns, walls and construction siding so long as they’re not historically designated. The city has even created a quasi-government agency, Eixo Rio to regulate the city’s urban artists, and celebrates an official Graffiti Day on March 27—the date Brazilian graffiti pioneer Vallauri Alex died in 1987.

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Carmen Miranda conquered the silver screen as a singer, dancer and actress in both Brazil and America in the mid-20th century. The Carmen Miranda museum  is filled with memorabilia including her trademark platform heels and towering turbans of plastic or sequined fruit.

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Rio de Janeiro became a World Heritage Site in 2012.

Rio is where you will find two of the world’s most famous beaches – Copacabana and Ipanema. Ipanema isn’t as hectic and the waters are cleaner.  When you’re in Ipanema make sure to stop into Garota de Ipanema as it is where the famous song The Girl from Ipanema was written.

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The Art Deco Copacabana Palace built in 1923 faces the beach. It has hosted the rich and famous for ninety years. You definitely feel old Rio when you are there even though it has been completely redone.

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.There are two great places to get away from the craziness in Rio de Janeiro.The Botanic Gardens covering over 130 hectares is extremely peaceful and home to over 6,000 types of plants and trees. The Tijuca forest is the largest urban rainforest in the world. Here you can go on hiking trails, admire waterfalls and much more. (Tijuca forest)

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Museu de Arte de Rio (MAR) is Rio’s newest art museum. It is part new modern building linked with a traditional building  by a canopy supported by pillars. The views of Guanabara Bay and the massive Rio-Niterói Bridge from the top floor are amazing. There is classic and contemporary art as well as an interesting exhibit on the history of Rio.

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The Museu del Arte Moderna is another incredible building designed by architect Affonso Eduardo Reidy.

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It houses one of the most comprehensive collections of Brazilian art in existence and interesting temporary exhibitions as well.

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The Biblioteca Nacional is the largest library in Latin America, In addition to the books, visitors can also delight in the library’s stunning neo-classical architecture and intricate Corinthian columns.

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Brazil’s most famous dance – samba – has its origins from the African slaves that worked in the plantations in the State of Rio de Janeiro There are more than 200 samba schools in Rio.

Lapa is known as the best place in Rio to experience nightlife.  This fun and unique neighbourhood comes alive at night, when Samba music can be heard pouring out of nearly every doorway and locals can be seen swinging their hips away while sipping on tasty cocktails. It is filled with row after row of live music venues, tapas bars, and thumping clubs.

I have to thank my guide Gabriel Morand who went above and beyond to make sure I had an amazing time in Rio. I saw everything I wanted to see, ate well and bought everything I needed to buy. I loved Brazil and can’t wait to return.

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Tenha Uma Boa Viagem,

JAZ

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The Gardens Of Roberto Burle Marx, Brazil

The Gardens Of Roberto Burle Marx, Brazil

“If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.”Marcus Tullius Cicero

Roberto Burle Marx is considered to be the father of modern landscape architecture. He grew up in Rio at the end of Copacabana Beach near the Pau De Acucar – Sugarloaf. He started arranging flowers at events and eventually began getting asked to design gardens.(self-portrait)

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He bought a property two hours outside of Rio near the small town of Guaratiba, it is called Sitio de Roberto Burle Marx and tours are available in Portuguese.

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Even if you are not a plant person, you know that you have entered a privileged space.

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He restored the old house and chapel and began propagating plants collected on numerous expeditions in to the wilds of Brazil.

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There are large areas of a single type of ground cover surrounding clumps of sculptural agaves, bromeliads, plumerias, dracaenas, clusias, palms and a myriad of other plants.

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The 100 acres have 3500 plant species.  Plants are always used to emulate the way they would grow in their natural environment.

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Over the years he developed an extraordinary landscape climbing the hill and introduced hundreds of previously unused plants to the gardening world.

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His interest in painting had a great influence on his designs.

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His drawings for gardens look like abstract works on paper.

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The gardens themselves usually contain large masses of vividly colored plants in a variety of textures, relying more on foliage than flower.

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They are laid out in bold sweeping forms.  Garden structure tends toward the architectural, often with rectangles that reflect the forms of surrounding buildings.

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As his fame grew, he was commissioned to design parks and gardens throughout Brazil, South America and abroad. Burle Marx collaborated with architect Oscar Niemeyer on Iberapuera Park in São Paulo. They worked on several projects together throughout the world and were good friends.

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The Copacabana waterfront with its long wave patterned mosaic sidewalk is perhaps the most renowned work by Burle Marx.

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The beach once fronted the buildings along the shore, but was actually moved to make room for the new Avenida Atlantica and large underground parking lots.  The wide sidewalk next to the Avenida is paved with the classic wave pattern that was originally used in Lisbon, Portugal for pavements when rebuilding parts of the city destroyed by a massive tsunami in 1755.  The sidewalk is 2.5 kilometers long and is one of the largest mosaics in the World.  The design perfectly frames the famed arc of sand backed by the Pau d’ Acucar. You will see a lot of Olympic Coverage here this summer.

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Tenha Uma Boa Viagem,

JAZ

The Favela – Project Morrinho

The Favela – Project Morrinho

“The world lies in the hands of those who have the courage to dream and who take the risk of living out their dreams – each according to his or her own talent.”Paul Coelho

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The story began in 1998 when Cirlan Souza de Oliveira a 14 year-old boy moved to the favela Periera da Silva in Rio de Janeiro.

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He and his brother decided to play with bricks they found in the back yard to create buildings inspired by the new places and surrounding buildings he saw. His efforts attracted seven young boys who began the creation of the replica of their community built into a hillside where they played out imaginary adventures with toys.

They kept it hidden to protect it and being in their mid teens they didn’t think it was”cool.” The ‘trafficantes” who controlled the area found out about it and encouraged the project. They thought it would help the kids in their community have opportunities so they did not become traffickers as well. Sometimes they came and played with the boys in the miniature city with their guns slinging behind them. The police after understanding that the traffickers had nothing to do with this project became encouraging as well.(utube by Cirlan Souza de Olivera)

.In 2001 the mini favela was visited by two documentary filmmakers, Fabio Gavião and Markão Oliveira. The filmmakers were so taken with their work that they developed a documentary about the project. Out of the documentary grew a partnership that helped Projeto Morrinho become a registered NGO and opened doors to the wider world of arts and social projects. The project is already famous and has been recreated in top international art festivals in Venice, Berlin, Munich and Prague, among others.  (Morrinho at Mar Museum in Rio fundraising for the favela project)

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The fame of this miniature favela continues to spread, along with the positive message it put out about young people against the odds, taking charge of their own lives and becoming role models for others in areas, normally synonymous with poverty and crime. In this respect Morrinho has become an inspiration to young people across the world.

Tenha Uma Boa Viagem,

JAZ

 

Escaderia Selaron or Selaron’s Stairs, Rio, Brazil

Escadaria Selarón or Selaron’s stairs, Rio Brazil

“Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.”
-Harriet Tubman

Chilean artist Jorge Selarón moved into a house next to these dilapidated steps in between the Lapa and Santa Theresa neighborhoods of Rio. He had left his hometown at the age of 17 to travel to 57 countries, staying anywhere from a few weeks to a few years, before landing in Brazil in 1983. After living in Rio for 7 years, he began decorating the steps. It became a tribute to the Brazilian people, using the bright blue, green and yellow colors of the Brazilian flag as his inspiration.

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As with many artists and new ideas, the project was originally criticized and mocked. Selaron with more obsession and passion in his veins than blood continued the work unfazed by the physical and verbal attacks. He called his piece “The Great Madness.”

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When his project began, he was consistently out of money, so Selarón sold paintings to fund his work.

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He scavenged both tiles and porcelain from various construction sites and piles of urban waste found on the street of Rio.

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As word of his project began to spread, he accepted tiles donated by friends and supporters from around the world.

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It is 250 steps and 125 meters long and has over 2000 tiles collected from sixty countries.

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Don’t just stop and take a photo.

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Walk up and down a few times because there are gems and treasures everywhere.

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Many tourists had the privilege to be photographed with Jorge Selaron as he was constantly working on the steps. He was the face of this bohemian and artistic neighbourhood.

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Unfortunately, I was not able to meet this legend as he was found dead on the very steps he decorated on January 11, 2013.  His body was found on the 215th step in front of his house. It is not known whether it was murder or suicide. He was found burned and covered with paint thinner. He had received death threats which made him depressed and reclusive.

Escadaria Selarón or Selaron’s stairs were officially declared a city landmark in 2005, and were continuously worked on and evolving until his death.

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It is the third most visited attraction in Rio after the Christ and Sugarloaf. It is unclear as to the future of the stairs as Selaron changed the tiles regularly for his living work of art.

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The lesson of Selaron was his life and not his death. I think it is to follow your passion at any age ( he was 43 when he started), use whatever materials you have at hand, and don’t listen to what anyone has to say about it.

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Fly safe,

JAZ

Sugarloaf and Christ The Redeemer, Rio, Brazil

Sugarloaf and Christ The Redeemer

“Some people travel for the culture, or the place’s history, or the sheer experience. Our aim is total dissolution. We travel from Egypt to Estonia, big clunky blocks of metal hanging from our necks, naïve and stuttering and asking all the right questions at all the right times—“Is this the Great Wall I’ve been hearing so much about?”—flashing a few photos and no one looks twice, except maybe to point and laugh but we are just harmless Americans come for a tour of life on the other side.”  Chris Campanion

Rio’s two biggest tourist attractions are on two famous hills overlooking the city.

Christ the Redeemer is one of the most visited sites in Rio.The famous statue is the largest Art Deco statue in the world and the second largest of Christ. The largest is in Świebodzin, Poland, built in 2010. Designed by Polish-French sculptor Paul Landowski, it took nine years to build and finally opened in 1931. The ceremony was supposed to have been lit by electric lights remotely turned on by Marconi in Rome, but the weather was so bad the signal couldn’t get through.

it is located on the top of a mountain known as Corcovado. You can take a van or a train from Cosmic Velho. If you go during any global sporting event, the lines will be ridiculous.

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If you are adventurous, you can hike up. We took a jeep tour with a tour guide who knew everything about everything. We got a lot of World Cup and Olympic inside information.

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You will experience the ninety eight foot statue with hordes of tourists all trying to take the perfect selfie.

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The security guards are the nicest ones in the world. If you climb on something to get a better photo, they so nicely ask you to get down that you aren’t sure if they mean it.

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The guards are busy taking pictures of everyone and showing you where to go to get the perfect shot. Im so used to security guards who think their uniform means they have to be large and in charge.

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Risto Redentor (as it is called in Portuguese) is an architecture wonder, a tourist attraction, a religious symbol and a Rio de Janeiro’s landmark. The views from up there are amazing but check the weather before you go up because the weather in Rio changes quickly and the Christ is often covered in clouds.

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The giant statue is struck by lightning several times a year and is constantly being repaired. The city seems willing to pay for multiple restorations, even though the pale gray-green soapstone that covers the statue is becoming hard to find.

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The other must do in Rio is Sugarloaf Mountain, located in Urca and probably no where near where you are staying. (View from the Christ)

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It is at the mouth of Guanabara Bay on a peninsula jutting out into the Atlantic Ocean. (Olympic water events will be here)

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Sugarloaf Mountain is 1,299 ft high above the harbor in Rio de Janeiro.

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The mountain is named for its resemblance to a traditional shape of a concentrated refined loaf of sugar.

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You can take a bus, taxi or tour to get there. It is called Pao De Acucar in Portuguese if you need to tell the driver. (my name is there now)

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A glass-walled cable car carries 65 passengers on to the mountain every 20 minutes. (the first cable car is there)

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Sugar Loaf Mountain is also one of the largest and most popular urban rock climbing destinations in the world. There are 270 different routes to explore in the area as you climb high above the Atlantic Ocean and the sprawling Rio de Janeiro. Or if you are like me, you can watch.

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The views are stunning and even with a lot of people, you dont feel cramped and can always a find a good place for photographs.

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Fly safe,

JAZ

Bend It Like Niemeyer

Bend It Like Niemeyer

“Here, then, is what I wanted to tell you of my architecture. I created it with courage and idealism, but also with an awareness of the fact that what is important is life, friends and attempting to make this unjust world a better place in which to live.” Oscar Niemeyer

I wish I could say I thought of that but I took the title from the Guardian. Maybe some of you not Brits had missed it.

One of Brazil’s greatest architects was Oscar Niemeyer who was known for his curved spaces and ramps. Beauty, spatial drama and lightness was more important to him than functionality. His use of concrete and steel was done in ways that had not been seen before. He died in 2012 at 104, a world-renowned architect, with hundreds of works in Europe, the Americas and Africa.

Niemeyer became a member of the Communist party in 1945. In 1964, when a military coup overthrew the government, Niemeyer was threatened and resettled in France and did not return to Brazil until the end of the military dictatorship in 1985. He designed the communist headquarters in Paris.

Oscar Niemeyer worked alongside Le Corbusier on the UN buildings in New York and his designs for Brasília earned the city a Unesco World Heritage status. Niemeyer received the Pritzker Architecture Prize in 1988, the highest award in the profession, for his Cathedral of Brasília. ( not my photo)

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I am a wannabe architect and a fan of beautiful buildings and could not wait to see his structures in Brazil.
Some of Niemeyer’s most famous and recent work can be found in the city of Niterói across the bay from Rio. Niteroi has more buildings designed by him than any other city outside of Brasília where he redesigned the capital city.

The Museu de Arte Contemporanea (MAC) overlooks Guanabara Bay.

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The museum is a direct response to the natural topography of the bay.  The curve of the structure matches the curve of Sugarloaf.

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The building is the anti gallery white cube space. You can see the relationship of art, architecture and the surrounding landscape.

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The Theatre of Niteroi is another great example of Niemeyer style.

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The drawing on the front by Niemeyer is done on each individual tile.

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The green and yellow color scheme represents Brazil’s flag.

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Oscar Niemeyer designed several of the buildings in Ibirapuera Park in São Paulo. Roberto Burle Marx and Otávio Agusto de Teixeira Mendes provided the park’s landscape architecture. The park opened in 1954.

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The Bienal was built to host a biannual art exhibition which started in 1951.

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São Paulo was the second city in the world after Venice to do this. A major art exhibition is held here every two years.

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I had seen photos of the interior before and didn’t recognize it because of the sharp contrast of the completely rectangular patterns on the outside to the flowing circular forms inside. (not my photo)

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The Marquise was also designed by Niemeyer. It’s a large, covered space that curves through the park behind the Niemeyer buildings and connects the Modern Art Museum to the playground and an outdoor restaurant. It’s used now as a place for people to relax, skate, and rollerblade.

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Oscar Niemeyer designed the Oca auditorium in 1951. The white domed structure is now used for traveling art exhibits. The full name is Pavilhão Lucas Nogueira Garcez, and it was built to commemorate the city’s 400th anniversary in 1951.

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It is called the “oca” because it resembles the traditional Native American dwelling.

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The interior has 4 levels, each connected by a ramp that spirals around.

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In 2004 Niemeyer co-designed the Park’s Auditorium with the “giant red tongue”.

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This futuristic building was in the original design of the park but was not built until much later.

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The Copan was one of Niemeyers early masterpieces. It is an imposing S-shaped building in the Centro district of São Paulo. Having studied some architecture, the Copan for me has always been a symbol of São Paulo. This is the largest residential building in Brazil, and, reportedly, the most populated single residential building in the world with room for seventy businesses on the first floor. It has its own zip code. The downtown area is a bit seedy but i’m sure with gentrification the apartments are being restored.

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Niemeyer went to the office everyday to work on his designs and oversee his projects till his death at 104. He believed in using architecture as a way to create a better world through better design.

Special thanks to my guides Arthur Simoes in São Paulo and Gabriel Morand in Rio for their knowledge, patience and stories about an architect that I have admired for a long time.

Tenha Uma Boa Viagem,

JAZ