Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Activating the Blank Slate

Among the many things that make Sao Paulo's Parque do Ibirapuera a sensational public space is Oscar Niemeyer's Grande Marquise. It's a meandering concrete promenade with a massive concrete roof shade structure that wanders between several modern buildings in the park. On a Sunday afternoon it is packed with strolling Paulistas eager to escape the vertical concrete jungle by enjoying a horizontal version surrounded by a lush, green landscape.

With its only valuable qualities being a flat, smooth, shaded surface and a constant stream of pedestrian audience members to check out your tricks, The Marquise could easily be a dark dreary dangerous void were it built in the cooler climates of London or New York. But in Sao Paulo it is THE place to show off, and their seems to be a de facto system for where each of the various groups engage in their arts. It is as if the rollerbladers, BMX bikers, skaters, and break dancers (sans music) have found the ideal conditions for their craft without getting in each other's way. The rollerbladers have a long run to get up speed out of the flow of pedestrians while the break dancers have a slower space at one end with a nearby wall where other teens can lounge while checking out their skills. Somehow it all flows together in perfect free-form harmony as this 60 year old blank slate still thrives as a masterpiece of public enjoyment.