"The city is being swept away by the metropolis. This action does not just replace one noun with another, but radically turns one state of affairs into a state of perpetual motion. As a collective action -- a verb more than a noun -- the metropolis destabilizes our concepts of time and place. With the dissolution of the city into the forever- emerging metropolis, our existence slides into permanent mobility." - L. Lerup, in After the City


56. traveling SF + beyond...

on Sunday we went to a design charette in the historic downtown of Pittsburg, CA. (the northeast terminus of the Pittsburg/Bay Point line). the BART ride takes a near-hour and reveals BART's ex-urban reach; en route, the smoothe golden hills of livestock agriculture and cookie-cutter developer housing take over to the south, while to the north the flat land and proximity to Suisun Bay historically made it a prime area for heavy industry + rail, which remain semi-salient local economies. we walked 2+ miles from the current BART terminus to the town-center, and along the way had access to the wide, flat right-of-way of the Union + Southern Pacific railroads. in this area the wall is king, and separates rail from house, house from power-line forest, everything beyond the wall of the rail-bed apparently endless until the horizon of smoke-stacks and windmill fields takes over, fading into briny haze near the water. it's an orderly, quiet, and melancholy landscape.

on the way home, i snapped the above blurry last minute photo of the Lafayette Mock War Memorial on a hillside adjacent to Hwy 24 and the Lafayette BART station: http://zombietime.com/lafayette_mock_war_memorial/. not knowing what it was i was struck by its dense, helter-skelter informality. its placement at a BART station along the highway makes it extremely visible, and the reaction to the memorial when it was first erected a year ago was immediate. it has since been controversial, as ownership over how to memorialize the war's victims is ambiguous.


like a good relationship, a blog is difficult to 'end' without feeling as if one is killing something that has been worthwhile, and to which one has grown inadvertently attached. i have decided to continue to use it as a forum for further speculation back here in the U.S., where collation of Branner material and thesis preparations begin to meld into an exciting panoply which considers the nature of urban documentation, the generic global city, and the existence of the minute particular, all tied together and navigated, of course, by the linescape. it's not readership i am hoping for so much as an actualization of a ghost-reflection of my own thoughts which might, in the process of creation, spit something back out at me (or convince someone else to).

last night during thesis discussion there was much talk of Architecture's debatable relevance to the contemporary human body, and it's role in articulating 'space' vs. 'place,' two terms which both de Certeau and Team 10 utilized. de Certeau conceived of 'place' as the geometric bookmark, as on a map, while 'space' is the nuanced, volumetric, ever-shifting actualization of a 'place' in use by multiple players, under variable conditions. (in parallel: grammar is to place as spoken language is to space). Team 10, however (and as i understand it), criticized the universalizing 'space' of Modernism's technophilia and called for a re-discovery of 'place' as particular locale. the use of the terms is not contradictory -- a place holder certainly signifies a particular locality, and Modernist space is not necessarily unoccupied or unpracticed (one could even argue that Modernism placed practice/occupation above particularity). one could also argue that Team 10 is re-asserting geography over humanity, a humanity which the Modernists used as a justification for their universalizing style (i.e. human needs became fulfilled by technological standardization). in both arguments, the concepts are inseparable, and the contemporary question might be what is the nature of practiced space WITHOUT its demarcation in place, and vice-versa?

Michael Elmgreen and Ingar Dragset's project in Marfa, TX was mentioned in our discussion as alluding to this debate: http://www.texasescapes.com/TexasArt/Prada-Marfa-Update.htm. what does a locked Prada store (never to be used) in the middle of the Texas desert (hardly to be seen) signify? is there architecture without humanity? and when does the intent of the creator give way to the work's own momentum? ostensibly the store was supposed to be left untouched -- to be scoured by the elements, marked by passers by. unfortunately, it seems that the maintenance has been conscientiously pursued.

a blog, or at least, this one, is not art or architecture, but i have similar questions about when its work is complete, and thereafter, what becomes of it. a concluded discussion turns into a memoir, which suggests...death? without further ado i shall add to the mess.

photo: aquatic park freighter on its way to Oakland.


fifty-four. landing.

RdJ night (view from Sugarloaf) into Midwest morning and SF afternoon . . . for now words fail, but the trip continues.

fifty-three. Brazilian Branner high-five.

we three
met during the last days of São Paolo (here buoyantly pictured at Mendes de la Roche's Sculpture Museum in Pinheiros, a must-see: the building is an exercise in spacious circulatory disappearance into slope. a vertical difference between two streets flanking the corner-sited building is used to fullest advantage to create a meandering landscape of ramps, shallow staircases, narrow passages, and hidden doorways which knit the interior and exterior into a seamless ribbon of quiet transitions.)

we shared a bus-journey to Rio past swaths of stump-scarred land now dotted with termite hills and beef-bearing cows. (Brazil's meat-industry is something one hates to love, intertwined with 'grilled' as its culinary identity is). arrival had us gawking at the landscape and clutching white-knuckled in a ferocious taxi-ride up the cobblestone streets of Santa Teresa, which hovers above the Centro area. the area is reminiscent of the North Berkeley hills, and i found myself disoriented by the sensation of comfort i (and my lungs) felt with the neighborhood's salt-scented breezes, residential scale, dynamic building-topography interplay (ex. the stair-connectors shown above), subtle social spaces, and nostalgic tram line. it's easy to see why expats might disappear into this city of Samba, seashore, and sociability.

Ipanema beach, although swarming with Brazilian bikini-clad bodies and muscle-beach men, was surprisingly low-key, and i felt little of the self-conscious preening and screening that i had anticipated. on the contrary, people's comfort level with their physicalities of all shapes and sizes was welcoming. the narrow strip of sand here acts as microcosmic town, replete with retail (vendors every 15 seconds), real-estate (chair and umbrella rental), and recreation (cerveja and paddle ball).

fifty-two. disconnected oddities, ameliorative generosities.

São Paolo ends with a bang and a whimper and a promise of revisit, my last few days there unfinished, frantic and fun ... for the first time on the Branner Ivan, Ballard and I converged, changing this urban jungle of solitary, wary evenings into wandering hop-scotch stop-here stop-there visits to churrascarias and chopperias to engage in much-needed catching up. these evening walks revealed stunning sights not possible during the day, such as views of receding rivers of car taillights swooping downhill beneath 60’ overpasses. it is dizzying, these connective stitches that cross the city everywhere (such as along Ave. May 23rd), revealing both a dysfunctionality (these low roads lie in valleys that end up flooding during summer deluges) and a subsequent generosity (the suggestion of reconnection is everywhere, in both built infrastructure such as numerous bridges and stairs, and in less-supported allusions, such as sidewalks which ‘continue’ across 8-lane roadways). this unpatterned melee of linescapes dates back to the city’s colonial birth when private land owners who lived in the elevated city-center connected their outlying holdings to the center via an unmanaged criss-cross of roads and bridges. São Paolo’s sensory similarity to Tokyo, which Ballard and I both felt, probably resides in both cities’ lack of well-established planning strategies and subsequent rapid urbanization, which has happened only the latter half of the 20th century.

from my last days here, there are a few routes i’d like to recollect:

10.6 ( to) the Lilac Line
a glance at SP’s metro map will reveal 3 primary lines: the north-south blue, the east-west red (the two meeting in the center at lively Pca de Se), and the east’ish-west’ish green, which lies to the south of Se and which services the elite business canyon along Paulista. (SP is described as having an itinerant ‘downtown’ in which the city’s money and power roves by the decade: the Centro was replaced by uphill Paulista, and now Faria Lima to the west is receiving much of the real-estate attention). there is also the lilac metro line, in the city’s southwest, a segment of 8 stops which connects to the CPTM suburban rail network. the fringe placement of this short, distant line aroused my curiosity, as i assumed it serviced a wealthy area and/or a politically important region in terms of population density and votes.

reaching the line requires a triple transfer, from metro red to its western terminus at Barra Funda, where lines A and B of the CPTM begin. Barra Funda is a major node linking the two systems (Metro and CPTM) and as such, it is also used for animated social-service videos (regarding good manners, saving water, etc., reminiscent of Singapore) and a small amount of advertising. while the city streets are largely devoid of billboards and posters due to April’s advertising ban, some advertising is still allowed in the transit stations, and even on the bodies of trains themselves (although rare).

line B of the CPTM was distinct from the metro on a sweltering Saturday afternoon; windows were open, faces moist with sweat, chatter was a bit louder, the hawkers more vociferous in their sale of cold coconut water and sorbet. leaving Barra Funda, the train passed through a relatively brief industrial sector followed by an even briefer patch of railside informality: shacks, urban agriculture, and two pigs (Mom and piglet) walking along a shady path. the N-S line C, from a transfer at Pres. Altino, is also part of the CPTM system and has its own character. its welcomed A/C and classical music was, most likely, an attempt to drown out the smell of the Pinheiros River, along which the line runs. at every station, the compartment filled with the heavy waft of effluent; once flowing southward, a nearby reservoir changed the Pinheiros’ direction, which also receives run-off from hillside favelas during summer rainstorms.

regardless of its dire condition, the Pinheiros remains a defining factor influencing the city’s western skyline; the high rises along its eastern banks spread N-S from Feria Lima’s financial district while on the western banks, the skyline rises and falls with isolated hills that once again exhibit São Paolo’s quick-changing socio-economic pockets – one hill hosts a favela, the next a handful of mansions, the next few hills a collection of dense white towers. the lilac line, radiating westward from the southern end of Line C, serves a densely populated residential area of favela-covered hills which rise above the small valley created by a now-culverted feeder stream. here the topographical corridor was close to the rail (approx 150m), and the train’s noise-pollution an obvious burden. the turnaround at Capao Redondo was quick and the ride home semi-rowdy with a few beer-drinkers celebrating some team’s football victory (a celebration later echoed back at Barra Funda with an impromptu parade of fans, flanked by station policemen). a blind beggar who boarded halfway through the Line B ride transformed the compartment into a silent and thoughtful community that gave more generously than i have seen elsewhere, and once he disembarked a more comfortable conversation level seemed to permeate the train. the day’s most remarkable sight, however, was back at the Santa Cecilia station where i had started the day. a boy of 8'ish was sit-riding a skateboard down the ramp that led to the station; he had a smile on his face whose ferocity suggested its rarity, and it was amazing to witness how a small piece of urban topography and 4 wheels could offer such a complete and temporary respite from the city’s demands.

10.8 Ave. São João + Elavado (see top photo)
the Elevado Costa E. Silva runs above a portion of Ave. São João, beginning in Santa Cecilia and curving northwest over to the edge of the hilly and pristine Perdizes neighborhood. although on my way to somewhere else i was compelled instead to follow this shadowy, linear, street art-gallery where overpass support pillars serve as canvases and sometimes as lean-to walls for the homeless. this same median over which the Elevado runs also serves as an efficient (good use of space, with the Elevado as roof) but inconvenient (no crosswalks) concrete swath for the buses which run on the inner lanes of São João, again a testament to São Paolo’s ‘go anywhere but no hand-holding’ approach to circulatory freedom. this stretch of São João + Elevado yields a high concentration of used bookstores which spill their tattered and colorful contents onto an otherwise semi-seedy sidewalk scene.

where São João + the Elevado cross over Av. Pacaembu, two striking views are afforded down either side of the overpass: to the south, the towers and verdant residential streets of Perdizes, and to the north, a banal strip of gas stations and apparent car dealerships which fades off into flat distance. adjacent to the overpass on this side was a sloped patch of dirt and a few trees where a few homeless men had established a true campsite, replete with fire-ring. despite the site’s high visibility from above and its adjacency to a busy road, the overpass wall and a set of stairs defined a discrete space, and the trees offered patchy protection. less than ½ mile away up into the hills of Perdizes a private school with ebullient teens next to an excellent 1950’s church of diagonal wall-blades, gentle side lighting, and sloped floor offered an entirely different world of privileged calm. the streets here (R photo above) looked uncannily like those in Jo’burg’s nicer neighborhoods (L photo above), where SFH are surrounded by 15’ high and 1’ thick walls, and chairs on corners belie the presence of neighborhood guards whose job it is to provide a psychological sense of well-being to the street. not far from here i descended into an odd topographical bowl/depression, where single storey bungalows remain mysteriously untouched and surrounded by a forest of slope-perched high-rises. in this area, one can witness some dramatic landscape gymnastics, where entire portions of hills are literally cut away to accommodate parking garages...this next to a nostalgic set of white-washed stairs and bright bungalows (see photo, below).

10.9 Rio Grande da Serra
Linha D provides a survey of the city’s southeast rail corridor, which evolves in a quintessential urban fade. the right of way begins narrowly out of the hub of Bras, with walls close, a railcar graveyard pressing in, and crowded, cavernous warehouses showing their roofs above the corridor barrier. this continues through the ex-industrial district of Mooca, and thereafter the density of warehouses begins to thin and the walls swell away from the tracks to allow vacant swaths of land, the occasional pocket of informal settlement, and the sporadic factory. in the distance heavy industry spews its smoke from barely visible spindly smokestacks, and a roadway 200 m. away breeds a suburban-feeling fabric of big’ish box retail separated by unused lots. the satellite town of Maua, 4 stops from the line’s terminus, marked a change of sorts – this lively hub boasts a massive bridge which attempts to knit together bandstand stairs, a tower of platforms and a bus-station with the town’s public plaza. excepting the bridge portion, the structure is unfortunately unfinished, leaving behind a dysfunctional red steel gesture. a large banner hanging from the bridge’s railing announced the temporary presence of Poupatempo Mobile, a roving tent-based version of the state government-sponsored social-service organization which i mentioned earlier. at Maua, most of the train’s chatty riders emptied out, leaving behind a void of silence and lonely faces in twilight. hereafter the stations disappeared into simple shadowy anonymity against a backdrop of the rural: expansive fields, with localized smatterings of houses, most notably those huddled on hills accessed by steep and narrow stairs. when the train wasn’t flanked by field it was flanked by small canyon, two steep rocky mounds pressing in close to the rail, turning windows into mirrors against a premature nightfall.


having found
a room where i can breathe and think, the end of my itinerancy (Sao Paolo) within itinerancy (Branner) has alleviated some of my distraction-beyond-logical-explanation. distraction may also be a state of being in SP, specifically; every city has its moods & effects, and while i cannot pinpoint them to a fountain-source here, the city’s disquiet strikes me as palpable. this is my third attempt at a comfortable temporary abode, the first being internally fine but located on a pedestrian street that became an unsafe zoo after 8pm, the second up on the hill (Paulista) but of the once-luxury-turned-to-seed budget variety where men wore tux vest uniforms and doors had built-in lazy susans (for discreet room service) even as the pillows were covered in plastic liner, the bed adorned with a junky ‘zine circa 2005, and the battery-powered lamp oozing corrosion and dead beyond repair.

having avoided the institution of the hostel in cities where it is affordable to do so, i have been seduced by a corner room here in the downtown Hostel. it is not just the 2nd floor room i love, which allows me to see down two different streets, but this neighborhood, which no travel guide would ever describe as definable, being in transition as it is and located somewhere between Santa Cecilia, Republica, and Consolaçao. next door, a sterile Formula 1! hotel sits across from a semi-retired grand-duchess called the San Raphael, whose ground-floor bar spills onto the sidewalk and acts as catalyst for a mini nightlife-on-sidewalk district. in the other direction, away from Sao Joao’s traffic, the sidestreets are lined with auto-fetish stores (ex. motorcycle clothing, body appliques), stores that are shiny without being bourgeois. from my two windows, in the early hour of 6am i watched the streets exchange hands. a few joggers dodged the dazed-out all-nighters or homeless clearing out for the day, windowless white mini-vans easily navigated the nearly empty streets, delivering newspapers and bread to kiosks and snack stands, an SUV with tinted-windows dropped a handful of scantily clad dancers onto the sidewalk where they hobbled on sore feet to various homes or hotels. everything was cool and calm for a few brief minutes.

there is silence to be found in pockets, although usually accompanied by a harsher reality. today: unlikely tree growing robustly on the top floor of an abandoned brick building, approx. 15 stories tall. or two men standing on the roof of a gorgeous glazed Modernist tower near Pça Ramos; i envied them but then realized they were either homeless, in a graffiti gang, or developers, as on closer inspection, most, if not all, 20-odd storeys looked empty. all the guards and police-people also seem shrouded in silence (the guards especially); they are heaviest in areas of revitalization, to make wary people feel safe in otherwise still-hectic environments. they stand in some of the nicer galerias, or at the door to more comfortable hotels in seedier parts (our hostel has one), or in areas where there is a stark mingling of have and have-not (such as at Pça Ramos where street kids sleep beneath a tree 10 feet from the entrance of the ‘Shop Light’ mall, or likewise, at the Municipal Theater, whose grand steps attract those who don’t have places to sleep but still want a nice place to sit). the Cathedral at Se is a silent holy place populated with the devout while its steps are gently claimed by a crew of beggars. this city’s ability to embrace such jarring contrasts within 5 feet makes it in some ways the most honest and difficult of all i have visited so far. the mind is constantly trying to absorb conflicting environments and given very little time to do so.

but it is not cruel, or at least, there are signs that it is not (which can obversely make the small acts of cruelty seem so much larger). the SESC organization, something akin to localized business cooperatives, demands taxation from businesses and then uses the funds to provide art and recreation centers around the city (Lina Bo Bardi’s SESC Pompei being the most famous). people who live in the precinct can use the facilities for free while outsiders can use it for a fee. the SESC Pompei offers a range of art classes, a library (where men play speed chess in silence), the gymnasium tower + pool, and a huge restaurant, bar, and performance venue. in similar social-mindedness, Poupatempos are city-sponsored ‘one-stop-shop’ type institutions offering a plethora of services such as ID card issuance, post office, medical exams, etc. i serendipitously found the first, designed in 2000 by Mendes de la Roche, at the Itaquera metro terminus (to the east). infrastructural in size and layout (like an indoor city with avenues), one can walk straight from the metro platform over a bridge and into the Poupatempo megastructure, making these services easily accessible from select public transit stations. this Poupatempo, which serves the city’s neglected eastern districts, in turn leads directly to a brand new mall, due to open in November. it looks incongruous and out of scale, as the surrounding residences are packed and tired at best, but according to the Poupatempo official (who finally gave me permission to take photos) the mall is an attempt to jump-start the area.

where the metro ends in this eastern quadrant, the CPTM picks up (Paulista Company Metropolitan Transit), a suburban rail system that supplements the 3-line metro. as the city center recedes, the train hawkers make a more frequent appearance, usually selling chocolate or gum. the length of the line’s extension is reminiscent of Tokyo, as is the hum of the train itself, growing louder as the riders diminish. as the train passes through empty farmland and the city seems finally exhausted, just as quickly the population again increases, until the line’s terminus. here a small town with busy main avenues seems to proclaim its self-sufficiency in the form of a single glass-clad office tower which boasts a heli-pad. it is now a full hour from the city. the return ride, on Line F, to the north, is sheer emptiness and sleeping on Thursday evening. the density is out there but in the darkness, it is unseen, as these neighborhoods do not receive the luxury of streetlights. the lighting within the train is yellow and poor, and everything seems a stage-set for a melancholy movie in which other bodies don’t mean company, and the man who boards sits too close even though the compartment is nearly empty. these suburban lines, at least to the east, express a loneliness which is embedded in detail. i never realized how much the color of in-train advertising can superficially cheer up the eyes, or at least temporarily entertain. the peri-urban platforms become dark, un-announced pauses of concrete, and the gap between the train and the platforms varies in both width and height (sometimes a step up, sometimes a step down, always a considerable gap across) as municipal concern with such details fades away.

below: metro at Pca de Se


the Anhangabau Park overpass, from Paulista looking north.


forty-nine. ‘White Heaven.’

‘white heaven’ is the pet name given to Sao Paolo by a perceptive few. the sky rarely shines true blue, and the blanket of haze and slight moisture that hangs in the air most days turns an otherwise unromantic skyline of dirty off-white into a dream-like vagueness. this past Sunday, the heart of the historic Centro was turned into a movie set. roads, transmogrifications of once-rivers, were blocked, and the streets were piled with tumble-weeds of shredded + tangled office paper. i watched as a crew member threw scraps in front of an industrial-sized fan, this need for false weather a rare and odd sight.

in other parts of the city, such as Paulista Ave, which shoots straight down the city’s highest ridge, fur-barked trees drop violent yellow flowers. like tears, they litter the sidewalks whose cracks become collectors of color. these small tragedies that mar the downtown’s elevated, wealthy areas are manually swept away in a battle to fight off the jungle in which the city was built. today, on noisy Rebouças, a cheap blanket, of the type used to protect walls or furniture during a move or a renovation, lay abandoned after a night’s sleep, and the squashed remains of large avocados were scattered here and there. the tree above, whose limbs were heavy with fruit, provided both potential feast and potential ambush.

if there was ever a strange city, this would be it. when speaking of the difficulty in comprehending it, i was told to ‘let it go. the more you try the less you know.’ there is little that is cohesive for me to tell. i stumble upon surprises, like the avocados, while thick traffic murders all thought. often, the one that does exist is, ‘what is that?’ it takes a retreat to my room, or a conversation, to figure it out: rooftop catwalks between two towers = a shared heli-pad. numerous facades covered in some sort of hieroglyphic script = an ongoing graffiti battle played out between favela gangs who come to the city center to claim the nth facade: the one owned by the disowned. the goal is to scrawl as high as one can in a territorial vertical war. the city may be quietened of advertising, and storefronts left with the rain-print of sign removal, but the city is definitely not devoid of signs.

the roads read as rivers, the towers as trees, trees so thick they become a sea, which returns their concrete masses to water. water’s transformed dominance is in the Anhangabau River, which once cut a watery swath to the west of the city’s original escarpment. it is now covered in concrete and above it runs an urban highway (9 Julho) that emerges and disappears under giant swaths of second ground. between these crevices, and the sheer density of towers which hug the topography, i have never seen anything comparable to the city’s panorama, or the maze of walkways, overpasses, underpasses, floating parks and dungeon stairways that saturate areas such as Anhangabau. at the scale of the Cinque Terre, Italy, this climbing, criss-crossing, disappearing acrobatic is one thing; at the scale of a metropolis, quite another. the audacity of such built endeavors is perhaps a response to the brashness of the original landscape, which is nicely exhibited in 19th c. maps at the Patio de Colegio, where the city was founded. with such high highs and low lows, one is always aware of up and down, but rarely of where ground 0 might be. even the buses are topographic: embarkation is flat, but one must ascend via stairs to both the front and the rear of the vehicle. the flow is highly controlled, with an attendee + cash box + magnetic turnstile reader. in like manner, some metro station platforms have metal bars which control the movement of platform traffic, and again, the turnstiles are everywhere. even the trash bins are given consideration in relation to ground; they become elevated metal-mesh containers with legs, quickly filled and subsequently emptied by men who pull enormous 2-wheel carts behind them.

elsewhere, the precious and profane seem to co-exist in surreal fashion. one of the city’s most elite and orderly cemeteries, with its noble carved headstones, serves as a foreground to the proximate glass and concrete towers which rise behind . the two are separated by a row of trees and a wide swath of grass. such juxtapositions of scales and symbolisms are becoming less shocking, as is the surprising lack of sensual taboos. cars park in the showrooms of lamp-stores whose ceilings are shrouded with crystalline chandeliers. stairways lead to high-speed roads which are flanked by uninviting sidewalks of yellow-tunnel light and noxious fumes. abandoned 20 storey towers hulk in the heart of the Centro even as hopes for urban renewal keep historic monuments well cared-for. at night, the Centro doesn’t twinkle from above but rather seems to suck the light away from the stoplights, headlights and taillights which glow on the streets, whisking people away to more palatable residential districts. the night sidewalks, underpasses, and nooks and crannies created by level shifts, walls, and overhangs are given over to the city’s young and often shoeless homeless population.

despite these melancholy descriptions, the city is not morose. during the day the Centro is rife with rhythm and hawkers selling everything from meat-on-a-stick to dangly earrings (especially popular). a cafe on Saturday was packed with youth singing along to a live band. every stranger i have encountered so far has been absolutely kind, helpful, and unendingly patient (as per public transit behavior – no rush, no shove, no worry if this train’s full). fresh fruit and great coffee are consumed in great, affordable quantities. signs of attempted renewal are apparent; the new Metro line 4 will connect Luz, the center of the Centro’s down and out, with distant nodes beyond Pinheiros, where office towers and busy boulevards abound. (the flier campaign for this line depicts a perky hipster couple being joined by the line). despite the large number of abandoned buildings, construction is visible, as are attempts to use building and retail projects to vitalize certain areas (ex. Itaquera). contrary to my expectation, the sky is not saturated with helicopters (although they are audible during evening rush hour), and walled enclaves, where they do occur downtown, still retain a visual porosity in the form of the fence, rather than the thick concrete wall. the sidewalks are inhabited, and after being in Johannesburg, this feels like cause for celebration...not that using Jo’burg as a measuring stick is necessarily healthy. but Sao Paolo, at least in its downtown areas, has a more ubiquitous vitality than stories of crime and segregation would lead one to anticipate.

random oddity: the prevalence of dates in street names such April 7th, March 25th, July 9th, May 23rd – all undoubtedly dates of significance. most cities cite famous people, monuments, and landmarks, creating connection between the naming of a place and a physical thing. on Sao Paolo streets, ideas of place and time become conflated. for example, on April 7th there is a great galeria . . . these galerias are a remarkable aspect of the city. usually occupying the first 3 to 5 floors of block-width buildings, they are essentially open-ended malls situated around a central atrium. most are serviced by central escalators, and boast circumferential balconies on the upper floors, and occasionally level 1 is below grade. part retail, part food court, part public space, part corridor, they are infrastructure at its most versatile and express a generous idea about an ‘edificio’s’ relationship to the street and to the public.

the open-closed building is elsewhere evident; Lina Bo Bardi’s SESC Pompei leaves its gymnasium façades punctured by enormous holes and entrances, USP’s architecture building is organized around a courtyard accessed through an open entry between the building’s pilotis, not to mention its library patio, created from a void in the plane of the glazing and pushed to the floorplate’s utmost edge. unforgettably though, in spite of its airy, flexible layout, the architecture school is simultaneously becoming cave/grotto: lime, which is leaking from the concrete ceiling, has created baby stalactites which hang down like icicles from the waffled ceiling. in one spot, i found a small bump on the floor. it was the beginning of a stalagmite.