Sunday, March 4, 2007

Tightrope on top of Sao Paulo

On my last day in Sao Paulo I decide to head up one more observation deck, the Edificio Italia downtown. The Edificio Italia was erected by Sao Paulo’s Italian community (hence the name), and has both a restaurant and an observation deck at the top. Contrary to what a lot of guidebooks say, you don’t need to go to the restaurant in order to go to the observation deck if you go at certain times of the day. I head up there for the view, but end up encountering Gabriel, one of my companions from PreservaSP, and his friend Guto.

The Edificio Italia used to be the tallest building not just in Sao Paulo, but all of Brazil. That honor now belongs to the Mirante do Vale, a residential building a little ways away. Downtown Sao Paulo is somewhat hilly, and despite being the tallest building it actually ends up being lower than some others due to do it being constructed in a valley. Still, we decided to see if they’d let us up on the roof.

Sao Paulo is kind of schitzophrenic when it comes to residential security. Middle-class people tend to live in 30-40 story high-rises surrounded by fences, sometime topped with barbed or even electrified wires, and staffed 24-7 by security guards. You might think this would make for difficult access to the roofs of residential buildings. But no, we simply go up to reception and ask, and 5 minutes later a janitor is escorting us up. The elevators have an interesting transport philosophy - they stop halfway between two floors, with either a half-flight walk up or down stairs to get to the floor. This leads to half as many potential stops, and at least theoretically, less transportation time.

We go to the top floor, walk up a flight of stairs, and the janitor unlocks the door. But we aren't on the roof yet. It turns out the top five stories don’t exist. Not empty floors, but non-existent floors. No floors, no ceilings, no walls. Just five-foot wide ledges surrounding nothing. We get up to the roof, half of which is actually a Helicopter Landing pad. The view is spectacular.

Top 5 stories of the Mirante do Vale

Helicopter landing pad on the roof

View northeast of the Edificios BANESPA and Banco do Brasil

View South - you can see the antennas of Avenida Paulista off in the distance

Looking down on the Viaduto Santa Ifigenia

The janitor hangs out while we go trampsing onto the other half - the aforementioned five-foot wide ledge. No guardrails, no nothing, with a 50-foot drop on one side, and 500-foot drop on the other. I cannot imagine anywhere in the United States letting us do this - for free no less.

No liability insurance - no problem!

Guto checking the camera

Guto and Gabriel

We hang out for a while, tip the janitor 10 Reals (about 4 dollars), and head back down. One more reason to love Brazil.

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