Humberto Campana’s São Paulo

The Brazilian furniture designer founded Estudio Campana with his brother, Fernando, in 1983. Their vibrant work can be found in the collections of the V&A and New York’s MoMA

Image: Paulo fridman

I travel a lot, so when I’m in São Paulo, I really like to live my city – I want to be updated on everything that’s happening. On Saturday morning I take my dog, Chica, who I found abandoned in the street, for a walk through my neighbourhood, Higienópolis. It’s a beautiful area, with 1940s, 1950s and 1960s buildings, many by the architect João Artacho Jurado. In the 1960s, people rejected him as being too extravagant, between kitsch and modernist, but now he is being reviewed; I think he captures the Brazilian spirit.

Chica and I will head for Parque Buenos Aires, which has lots of palm trees, and en route I’ll stop at one of the many fruit stalls for fresh coconut water.

Back at home, I read the newspaper and then jump on my bicycle. I love to cycle in downtown São Paulo. I’ll bike along Viaduto do Chá, past the Theatro Municipal, a 19th-century building that’s a copy of Paris’s Palais Garnier. Sarah Bernhardt, Maria Callas and lots of other wonderful artists have performed here.

Then I’ll go to the Pinacoteca do Estado, a contemporary art museum that has been refurbished by the Pritzker-prize-winning Brazilian architect Paulo Mendes da Rocha. It always has very good exhibitions, from abroad as well as by Brazilian or Latin American artists.

I have lunch downtown with friends at Almanara, one of the oldest Lebanese restaurants in São Paolo, from the 1940s. I’ll order shish barak (a kind of heavy yogurt soup), stuffed vine leaves, a chicken, rice and almond dish perfumed with cinnamon, and lots of pastries.

In the afternoon I like to catch an early movie at the Cinesesc, which shows new art-house films as well as old ones by directors such as Fellini or Visconti. Then I might stop by the big bookshop Livraria Cultura. It’s on Avenida Paulista, the financial centre of São Paulo, in a very beautiful 1950s building called Conjunto Nacional. I’ll look at the design and architecture books and sift through their collection of Brazilian music, by the likes of Marisa Monte, Bebel Gilberto, Seu Jorge and Adriana Calcanhotto.


The nearby Parque Trianon is beautiful; it has dense trees and areas of rainforest. It has a stillness and silence. I come here to breathe, get energised and see things that are green, which I need as São Paulo is so heavy on concrete.

In the evening, I like going for dinner at La Casserole – the city’s oldest French restaurant. They have photos on the walls of Nureyev and other famous people who have eaten there. I love the trout in almonds, and always have the delicious cherry tart for dessert.

Drinks afterwards are at Terraço Itália, at the top of the highest building in São Paulo, from where you can see the whole of the city. Its decadent 1960s decor is just as it was when it first opened.

On Sunday, I’ll go to Parque do Ibirapuera  – it has lots of 1950s Niemeyer buildings, including the Auditório Ibirapuera, a theatre that opens onto the grass – and the Museu de Arte Moderna (MAM); last year I saw a great exhibition there by Brazilian artist Adriana Varejão. Then I’ll grab a coffee in a boutique café called Santo Grão on Rua Oscar Freire, which has all kinds of Brazilian coffee.

Lunch is with friends at Spot, a haunt for locals. They serve a mix of international food, including lots of healthy fish dishes and salads.

Nearby is MASP, a museum I like to visit. It’s the project of Lina Bo Bardi, an Italian architect who saw Brazilian culture with a very sophisticated eye. Her husband brought with him his art collection, from Renoirs to van Goghs.


I need to see as much art as possible, to be inspired. On Sunday night I never go out. It’s quiet time.

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