Modernist houses in Sao Paulo

Learn the story of five modernist residences that function today as cultural centers – and what to see in each of them

If modern architecture emerged in Brazil lagging behind the artistic innovations of 1922, it did not fail to follow anthropophagic ideals. Local architects designed houses under the influence of names such as Le Corbusier , but in a genuinely Brazilian way – using, for example, the country’s climate to achieve the integration with nature that so marked this architecture.

São Paulo has several of these buildings. Today iconic, some have become cultural centers.Then learn about the history and new uses of five of them.

Designed by Gregori Warchavchik , a Ukrainian based in Brazil, the residence is the first modernist example of São Paulo, built between 1927 and 1928. The house was the home of the architect himself, who was married to Mina Klabin – daughter of important industrialists, she was responsible for landscaping. 

In fact, the extensive green area surrounding the house forms the Modernist Park. As construction was about to be completed, Warchavchik claimed he could no longer afford to include the ornaments demanded by the City at the time – a pretext for creating a more sober facade, linked to modernist precepts. Nonetheless, the building still went back to conventional standards, somewhat attenuated in 1935, with a renovation that incorporated aspects such as the use of concrete, which appears on the new terrace.

“He has done a lot of experiments here,” says Regina Helena Vieira Santos, the architect in charge of the house, listed and currently belonging to the Municipal Secretariat of Culture. Among the existing attractions today is an exhibition dedicated to the history of the house itself.

This house is the one that was opened to the public most recently, operating since March as an institute that preserves the memory of its architect, Vilanova Artigas . Author of projects such as the Faculty of Architecture and Urbanism of USP and Morumbi Stadium, Artigas had previously created, on the same ground – with an area of ​​1,000 m2 – a small house to spend the weekends. At the time, Campo Belo, where it is located, belonged to the countryside. 

In 1949, with strong influence from Le Corbusier , he then built the house that would be his family’s fixed dwelling. The project is marked by the use of raw materials, pilings and glass. With this, he wanted to integrate the house with the green area and bring natural light.

Responsible for the space, the architect Talita De Nardo Missaglia says that, at the time, the innovations made curious question whether the property was a school or even a church. He also reports that Artigas opened the house to friends and students looking for a place for their political and architectural discussions. 

Today, with coffee (including lunch options), coworking and activities such as the exhibition dedicated to the architect, the institute seeks to take back part of this spirit.

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