For decades, São Paulo has seen investments in architectural infrastructures that help alleviate the lack of public space in the megacity. Many of these projects also provide São Paulo’s 12 million inhabitants with access to recreational, cultural, and athletic programs, much-needed in this dense metropolis of tremendous inequality, high crime rates, severe traffic issues, and serious public health problems. Access for All: São Paulo’s Architectural Infrastructures presents a selection of these public-, public-private-, and privately-owned buildings, public spaces, and infrastructure projects at different scales that attempt to create inclusive places for urban society.
The 13 featured projects were built from the 1950s to the present—from the establishment and consolidation of modern architecture in Brazil onward. The exhibition thus serves both as an historical survey and an analysis of current architectural production. The projects are presented with a focus on their programmatic characteristics, rather than their formal qualities, which are usually the emphasis in scholarship on Brazilian architecture. Regardless of when they were constructed, the projects are analyzed as they stand today, through newly commissioned photographs, films, architectural drawings, illustrations, models, and interviews, as well as archival documents.
Access for All looks partly at how the city is designed incrementally by architects working at the building scale and, conversely, how the accumulated built logic of the city has an impact on its architecture and public spaces. The exhibition emphasizes how architecture weaves in and out of the city, blurring the boundaries between buildings and the public realm. Sidewalks merge into ramps, stairs, and escalators, and at times reappear in the cityscape as elevated or sunken plazas, rooftop terraces, and gardens.
While many cities around the world are still chasing the Bilbao effect—the creation of a monofunctional, signature architectural work by a famous architect to attract tourism—Access for All advocates for architecture that serves diverse cultural, social, and recreational functions, all aimed at sustaining the needs of São Paulo’s residents.