A visit down town into São Paulo’s historic financial district with my friend Kamila offered me an opportunity to learn more about São Paulo, Brazil’s most populous city, through the lens the of the Farol Santander – Santander Lighthouse.
Farol Sandander was a former Banespa building which opened earlier this year on the 25th January, the anniversary of São Paulo. On my visit, I loved the acknowledgment of ‘Dia da Consciência Negra – Black Consciousness Dia‘ in November which came in the form of an eye-catching pop-art of black female representation (resembling AfroLatina pop star Amara La Negra!) on the outside entrance of the building reading ‘Talent Has No Colour‘.
And a short distance before the building lies a statue of Zumbi dos Palmares. I found this to be very symbolic as I hadn’t seen any prior homage to the black presence in São Paulo, besides the Museu AfroBrasil. I couldn’t have been prouder to stand next to it for a picture!
The 35-story building is an addition to São Paulo’s visitor attractions. Located in ‘Centro’, the centre of São Paulo. The restored building has became a hub for culture, entertainment and leisure. In addition to a skating rink, the building has a terrace with close to 360 views of the city, and even a large luxury apartment that can be rented on airbnb if you have a spare $3,500 a day!
Upon approaching Farol Santander, you’ll notice the building has an ‘Empire State Building‘esque about it. The New York grandeur of the 1940’s and 1950’s becomes a reoccurring theme inside.
A symbol of a time when the capital of São Paulo was going to become a metropolis, the building began to be built in 1939, and was only ready eight years later, on June 27, 1947. It was the governor Ademar de Barros who inaugurated the building which was in the financial centre of the city between São Bento, XV de Novembro and Direita streets.
The building was inspired by the art deco architecture of the famous Empire State Building in New York. With 35 floors and 161 meters in height, it was considered the largest construction of reinforced concrete in the world, and for almost 20 years was the highest in São Paulo. In 2000, the building was incorporated into the equity of the Spanish bank Santander that bought Banespa. In 2014, the construction was registered by the Condephaat – Council of Defense of the Historical, Archaeological, Artistic and Tourist Patrimony of the State of São Paulo. The state flag of São Paulo follows the mast at the top of the building, which still has a lighthouse.
Transported into History
Visit each floor using the serviced elevator, or challenge yourself with the spiralled staircase (perhaps on the way down!) which has plastered cutting of newspaper clippings on the wall.
On the 5th floor, visitors will be able to see the painted portraits of the past presidents of the Agricultural Bank before it became Banespa, and then Santander. Be transported through time with replicate office settings including the vintage furniture used in the meetings of the board of the Banespa… I couldn’t help but wonder if the present board still represents this dated representation; very white, middle class, middle aged (or older) and male! Or if it now represents the diversity of Brazil’s society to include multi-race, gender, sexually, ability etc?
Adoniran Barbosa Exhibition
The 11 Train – A journey through the world of Adoniran / Trem das 11 – Uma viagem pelo mundo de Adoniran
One of the exhibitions which stood out for me, especially as I have a love for Samba music, was the “11 Train – A journey through the world of Adoniran” exhibition – an immersive experience that tells the story of the samba artist Adoniran Barbosa and his relation with the city of São Paulo. Known as the greatest chronicler of São Paulo – A voz da cidade / The voice of the city.
The show has personal and artist collections, as well as using iconography, films and period archives that show how Adoniran Barbosa built his career in music, radio, film and television, becoming one of the most relevant icons of the city of São Paulo.
Hidden for 10 years, the Adoniran Barbosa collection returns to São Paulo in a big exhibition at the Farol Santander. The exhibition runs from from 24/07/2018 to 27/01/2019.
Overall, our visit lasted about two hours, though we could have easily spent longer and chilled for a coffee at the 26th floor cafe, or one of the cinema rooms for a short movie part of the exhibition. If you’re unconvinced São Paulo has enough to offer for a touristic trip – think again! I highly recommend Farol Santander for it’s immersive exhibitions, picture opportunities and spectacular views of São Paulo… Even if it did start to rain once we reached the the lookout at the top!
Farol Santander is located at Rua João Brícola, 24 – Centro. You can buy on the day at the box office R$ 20. For more info, opening days and time please visit www.farolsantander.com.br
Is São Paulo on your to-visit list? I’d love to know your thoughts – share them in the comment box below!