Focus on Brazil: The California Building


The California Building was designed by Oscar Niemeyer and Carlos Lemos in 1951 and completed in 1955.  Along with the Eiffel (1956) and Copan (1959), the California was one of several projects responsible for offering the first high-rise, mixed-use housing options for urban dwellers in the city center.

While all three projects offer innovation in façade and plan, the California is most exceptional for building out the lot in order to maximize sellable retail and residential space and for reconfiguring the urban block to connect Barão de Capanema and Dom José de Barros streets.  While the street level is maintained for public use, the upper floors are accessible only by residents, a logic repeated in the construction of the Eiffel and, to a much larger scale, the Copan. As Angelo Bucci points out in his book Reasons for Architecture (2011), because “gallery” buildings such as the California combine public space and more than double the available retail space with an inner pedestrian street, they reflect hybrid approaches that successfully integrate interests oriented toward the public good and the real estate market.

Find images of this project by searching the VRC’s online image collection using the search terms “California” in the Subject field and “São Paulo” in the City field.

Photograph by Kristine Stiphany, courtesy UTSOA Visual Resources Collection.