originally published in ZACCAGNINI, Carla (org.).
Translated Catalogue. São Paulo: Palavra impressa, 2006.

PANORAMA (Etymology: pan- + Greek horama sight, from horan to see) Date:1796 _ a: CYCLORAMA 1 b : a picture exhibited a part at a time by being unrolled before the spectator; 2 a: an unobstructed or complete view of an area in every direction b: a comprehensive presentation of a subject c: RANGE; 3: a mental picture of a series of images or events. (in Merriam-Webster dictionary)

I stand at the top of Copan building located in the historical center of the city of São Paulo. There is an ambiguous sensation of being wrenched away and isolated from the city’s vastness, in which its inhabitants seek the sky and long for the horizon. Standing there I attempt to position myself in this sprawling metropolis. There is Avenida Paulista with the mobile/TV/radio antennas, Pico do Jaraguá and the northern mountainous range skyline, Higienópolis, Minhocão, Edifício Itália, ex-Hilton Hotel, Igreja do Sumaré, Vale do Anhangabaú, Brás, Zona Leste continuous urbanization, Museu de Arte de São Paulo (MASP), Hospital Santa Casa, Avenida Consolação, Praça da República, among others. I feel dizzy in this 360- degree vista.

The Panorama was “invented in the early nineteenth century by an Englishman who offered bedazzled visitors a 360-degree painting imperceptibly mingled with 3D objects in a room. At the centre of the room the visitors stood, transported into the battle of Waterloo, onto the deck of a sinking ship or into the nacelle of Gambetta’s ballom as he escaped the siege of Paris” [1]. Bruno Latour starts and ends his book Paris ville invisible (with Emilie Hermant) with two panoramas: the first is at the top of the Samaritaine department store building and the last is from the co-author/photographer’s place. This, in order to remind us –leading through that city and through the text and a series of images– that “no panorama enables us to ‘capture all of Paris’ in a single glance”; nor all of São Paulo.

Copan has a massive presence in the landscape and in the collective imagination of São Paulo since its idealization for the IV Centenary Anniversary of the city in the early 1950s (its final inauguration dates from 1966) to the present day. It is a 32 storey popular residential building designed by architect Oscar Niemeyer for a private company. It has at least seven different types of dwelling plans inhabited by an estimated 2.500 people, and an open ground floor with shops and services. This wave-form building has 1,160 apartments divided into 6 blocks. Each apartment has its own perspective of the city creating an internal space entirely different from its neighbors.

I have changed apartments several times within the building. At almost 115 meters high your main peers are the high-rise buildings, the sky, clouds, rain, storms, horizon, sunrises, sunsets, wind, the noise, the hum of the helicopters, zeppelin ads for automobiles tires, annoying pigeons and the black vultures (urubus). Copan enables you to capture the many visible and invisible cities of São Paulo. One bachelor’s suite I lived in is about 25m2 with a glass window of 10m2, located in the back side of the building. You can see São Luis Avenue, Paulista Avenue, the Anhangabaú Valley and finally the East Zone. When you focus your vision there is a sense of vertigo, an abyss that almost begs you to fall in order to get a better view of the blue roof of Copan’s cinema turned Pentecostal church next to the profit bearing private parking lot.

My current apartment is located in the front side of the building and has about 45m2 with 18m2 of panoramic window facing the north/west directions. Due to the brise-soleil, this window does not allow a direct view of the ground near the building, as if the city itself were a contiguous room of one’s own home, along with the constant drum of the metropolis. Sociologist Laymert Garcia dos Santos noted “these windows frame the city in the distance, allowing the gaze to travel over it until the point where it disappears in the mountainsides. The skyline then vanishes, allowing the horizon to be drawn by nature, and the city to exist in relation to it (which, evidently, changes everything and makes the view from the window of the Copan an extraordinary perspective, at once about and inside São Paulo). This is only possible because Niemeyer (…) practically ‘fits’ the observer’s view so that he, through the optical resource before him, sees the panorama outline itself in space like the surface of an unexpected image” [2].

I have stayed too long in the panorama room, and take the elevator down to the ground floor, say hello to the doormen, drink a coffee at Café Floresta (“Forest Cafe”) in the main entrance, greet a neighbor, see a friend, flirt with a passerby, buy groceries, a newspaper, sit at the sidewalk, take the metro, wander around, go away and negotiate.

[1] Bruno Latour and Emilie Hermant, Paris ville invisible, Paris: La Decouverte & Les Empecheurs de penser en rond, 1998. An English version Paris: Invisible City, translated by Liz Carey-Libbrecht, is available in, 2006, pp.2, 4.

[2] Laymert Garcia dos Santos, ‘Partenheimer and the drawing of the drawing’, in Jürgen Partenheimer Roma-São Paulo Drawings, ed. Staatliche Kunsthalle Karlsruhe, Karlsruhe, 2006, p.139. Exhibition and publication including the drawings and texts produced by the artist Jürgem Partenheimer during his one month period (supported by Goethe Institut São Paulo) in EXO artist-in-residency program in Copan Building , in March/April 2005.

Thanks to Luciana, Jorge, Erika and Essi.