Ministério do turismo, secretaria especial da cultura e belgo bekaert arames apresentam

Edifício Wilton Paes de Almeida

R. Antônio de Godói, 22 - Centro Histórico de São Paulo, São Paulo - SP, 01034-901

When there is memory, there are plenty of stories in it. 

My first year in Architecture and Urbanism University was 2002, precisely 20 years ago and, of course, my memory has blanks, so this is the story of the history.

A so-called didactic visit took us to São Paulo, few sleeping hours and little rest for a body that spent hours sat on a wheelchair. 

Those were my first looks at an unknown São Paulo, made by visible and invisible layers, full of movements and sounds that architecture brought me. 

I remember once going to São Paulo’s downtown, the one I have passed through so many times, but it was different in 2002, looking at Mercado da Cantareira was not that interesting, but its surrounding was.  

In Edifício San Vito I recognized its importance beyond de “tremble-tremble” fame, reflected in its degradation, I could see the landscape that was impacted by the passage of time, by the way, common condition in so many other buildings in the city.

It was dark and gray. 

I suppose I would feel just as emotional if I had had the same opportunity facing Edifício Wilton Paes de Almeida, which collapsed due to so many people’s neglect.  

Until today I look at images of it and try to imagine what was the construction’s impact of this modernist building in the 1960s, whose project, signed by the architect Roger Zmekhol, gathered concrete and metal to make the 24 floors building’s structure, held by glass facades or by the “glass skin”, its nickname. 

Beyond my imagination, it comes the certainty that Largo do Paissandu was never the same after that.

For years, Wilton Paes de Almeida was occupied by private companies, until it was acquired by the public initiative after its owner’s indebtedness, and its degradation process was inevitable, just as its abandonment. 

The glass skin gained scarves but kept resisting and being occupied by other people who turned those floors into their places, it was home for those who needed one. 

The former luxurious scenario became invisible and then it “belonged” to those socially invisible people, women of all ages with their children, grandchildren and extended family, men, children, and foreigners. 

And so, this lasted years, and what could be worthily occupied – if the State had treated the constitutional right for housing for everyone seriously – was in fact slowly ruined until it burned into flames in 2018. 

It was not inevitable, but for what? For whom? 

Wilton Paes de Almeida was burnt, so were the residents that have vanished with it. And the others who cried for their losses kept on living, and keep on living in some many places, many spaces.