Streetview of the Insituto's colorful and curved modern architecture.

The Instituto Tomie Ohtake. Photo © André Deak/Arte Fora do Museu, licensed Creative Commons Attribution.

The major thoroughfare of Avenida Brigadeiro Faria Lima marks the southwestern frontier of Jardins. South lies the upscale commercial neighborhood of Itaim Bibi, where some of the city’s achingly trendy restaurants and bars open and close with impressive velocity. North are the adjacent bairros of Pinheiros and Vila Madalena. Pinheiros mixes a forest of commercial high-rises with some interesting boutiques, galleries, restaurants, and a lively nightlife scene.

By day, Vila Madalena is a wonderfully laid-back place to wander around.North of Pinheiros, Vila Madalena is Sampa’s bohemian bairro par excellence. Originally, the area was a blue-collar neighborhood where workers lived in small bungalows surrounded by gardens where they raised livestock and vegetables. In the 1970s, students and professors from the nearby University of São Paulo—along with artists, musicians, and hippies—began to migrate here for the affordable housing combined with a relaxed, bucolic setting. Many have never left, which explains the lingering intellectual-artist vibe tinged with vestiges of hippiedom and accounts for street names such as Rua da Harmonia (Harmony), Rua da Simpatia (Sympathy), and Rua do Girassol (Sunflower). By day, Vila Madalena is a wonderfully laid-back place to wander around. Rua Aspiculta and surrounding streets such as Rua Fradique Coutinho and Rua Fidalga are lined with funky boutiques, secondhand stores, and numerous art galleries where you can spend hours browsing. At night, the bairro buzzes with activity as its restaurants, bars, and clubs fill up with a mixed and alternative crowd.

Instituto Tomie Ohtake

Pinheiros’s most compelling attraction is the Instituto Tomie Ohtake (Av. Brigadeiro Faria Lima 201, tel. 11/2245-1900, 11 a.m.–8 p.m. Tues.–Sun., free), which occupies the first two floors of a wildly flamboyant office tower whose curving facade is painted in tones of magenta and violet. The building showcases the signature style of one of Brazil’s most daring architects, Ruy Ohtake (responsible for the design of two of Sampa’s chicest hotels: the Unique and the Renaissance, both located in Jardim Paulista). Meanwhile, the institute pays homage to Ruy’s mother, Japanese Brazilian artist Tomie Ohtake. Her paintings and engravings that are on display, ranging from early landscapes to later abstractions, all incorporate Japanese artistic elements, most notably traditional brushstroke techniques. Other galleries also display temporary exhibits of contemporary art. In the Grand Hall, the IT store sells an enticing array of objects, jewelry, and T-shirts by innovative Brazilian artists and designers. There is also a sleekly attractive restaurant-café.

Excerpted from the Third Edition of Moon Brazil.