While master builder Marcio Kogan has left his award-winning mark all over the world—you can spot his elegant, minimalist designs in the U.S., Bali, Portugal, and beyond—his wide-reaching influence is perhaps best displayed in his mother country, Brazil, where his famed horizontal houses have helped to reinvigorate each of the cities he touches. With his finger ever on São Paulo's pulse, where his studio MK27 is based, he’s got a keen sense for the shape of the city and all its ebbs and flows. From a bar once frequented by leftist bohemians to brunch at a monastery—not to mention a tourist trap that is actually worth it—Kogan shares his picks for what to do when visiting Brazil's cultural capital. For more on Kogan, see our feature from the March/April Issue.
What neighborhood do you live in and how long have you lived there? I live in Itaim, an ugly neighborhood, but very alive. The exposed brick and concrete building I live in is my first project, and I have been living there since 1984.
Where do you put up friends visiting town? Hotel Fasano (which I designed with Isay Weinfeld) is the best choice if you have quite a bit of money in your pocket. It is definitely the best. The city does not have any consistent hotel chains, nor any hotel that’s considered cool (Rua Vitório Fasano, 88; 55-11/3896-4000; fasano.com.br).
Where is the best place to find your hometown’s signature dish? In any local street market, everyone should try a pastel, a deep fried delicacy. One of the best and most popular is in front of the Pacaembu stadium. Don’t forget to order a garapa, sugar cane juice with lime. Yummmmmmm.
What is your favorite restaurant to take visitors? Mani (Rua Joaquim Antunes, 210; 55-11/3085-4148; manimanioca.com.br) and D.O.M. (R. Barão de Capanema, 549; 55-11/3062-3592; domrestaurante.com.br) are excellent. Dining on the terrace of Chou is super charming (Rua Mateus Grou, 345; 55 11 3083-6998; chou.com.br), and Arturito not only has excellent food (great meat) but also a beautiful owner (Rua Artur de Azevedo, 542; 55-11/3063-4951; arturito.com.br). Barbacoa (Rua Doutor Renato Paes de Barros, 65; 55-11/3168-5522; barbacoa.com.br) and Rodeio (Rua Haddock Lobo, 1498; 55-11/3474-1333; rodeiosp.com.br) also have excellent meat. At Rodeio ask for picanha fatiada com arroz biro-biro e batatas suflê (a rump cap with fried rice and shoestring potatoes). Yummmm. At Barbacoa eat slowly; it is a rodízio type restaurant—an all-you-can-eat type of place, very common here. The waiters walk around offering many different types and cuts of meat. And they can destroy you in about five minutes, so pace yourself.
Where can you find the best cocktails? Beer list? Wine list? Riviera, a classic SP bar, the bastion of leftist bohemians during dictatorship years, which we recently refurbished (Av. Paulista, 2584; 55-11/3258-1268; rivierabar.com.br).
What is your go-to after-hours bar? / Where would you choose to splurge on a night out? I don’t usually frequent night clubs, but I went to Cine Jóia once and loved it. It is a venue in an old movie theatre, it has great concerts and the space is cool (Praça Carlos Gomes, 82; 55-11/3101-1305; cinejoia.tv).
What’s the best way to spend a Saturday afternoon in town? For architecture lovers a visit to the “Glass House” (“Casa de Vidro”) by Lina bo Bardi is a must (Rua General Almerio De Moura, 200; 55-11/3744-9902; institutobardi.com.br), or a visit to SESC Pompéia by the same architect (Rua Clélia, 93; 55-11/3871-7700; sescsp.org.br), or a stroll through Ibirapuera Park (by Oscar Niemeyer). Order a caipirinha and appetizers at Bar da Dona Onça (Av. Ipiranga, 200; 55-11/3257-2016; bardadonaonca.com.br) located on the ground floor of the Copan Building, another building by Oscar Niemeyer. For something very touristy, I like the bar at Terraço Itália (Av. Ipiranga, 344; 55-11/2189-2929; terracoitalia.com.br).
What is your Sunday morning routine in your neighborhood? I love walking in São Paulo. It is an extreme sport as the sidewalks are filled with holes and were designed for you to fall.
Where is the best brunch? The best brunch is at the São Bento monastery, on Sundays, prepared by the monks. “Nihil est quod Deus efficere non possit.” (Largo de São Bento; 55-11/3328-8799; mosteiro.org.br.)
Where do you go for the perfect cup of coffee? On a normal day, I would go to La Vie En Douce (Rua da Consolação, 3161; 55-11/3088-7172; lvddoces.com.br), nearby the office for delicious mini pastries and great coffee. But if you would like a more pro experience I would recommend the Coffee Lab (Rua Fradique Coutinho, 1340; 55-11/3375-7400; coffeelab.com.br).
What’s your favorite view in town (that tourists might not know about)? From the bar of Terraço Itália—the second tallest building in São Paulo—you have an amazing panoramic view of the city, almost 360 degrees. It is a tourist trap, but I love it.
What’s your favorite path or trail to follow on a walk? Frequently I go from my apartment to the office, one hour walking, without passing anything interesting to see, and being careful not to fall in the many holes on the sidewalks. That is São Paulo, but I promise you that it is cool!
What are your favorite offbeat cultural attractions? São Paulo has dozens of offbeat events. The alternative film festivals are my favorite, being that I can’t stand the stratospheric sound of the musical events. I like elevator music!
What’s your favorite shop or boutique? São Paulo is crowded with malls, and although I’d rather stay away from them, I would say Cidade Jardim (Av. Magalhães de Castro, 12000; 55-11/3552-3560; shoppingcidadejardim.com), Iguatemi (Av. Brigadeiro Faria Lima, 2232; 55-11/3816-6116; iguatemi.com.br) and JK (Av. Presidente Juscelino Kubitschek, 2041; 55-11/3152-6800; iguatemi.com.br) are some of the best. To shop for books, I would suggest Livraria Cultura at Iguatemi shopping (Av. Brigadeiro Faria Lima, 2232; 55-11/3030-3310; livrariacultura.com.br), one of our projects. Amoreira is a very charming store with a bit of everything (Rua dos Macunis, 510; 55-11/3032-5346; amoreira.com.br), from design to toys. The supermarket Santa Luzia for me is the best in the world (Alameda Lorena, 1471; 55-11/3897-5000; santaluzia.com.br). Osklen (multiple locations; osklen.com), Huis Clos (multiple locations; huisclos.com.br), Reinaldo Lourenço (Rua Eugênio de Medeiros, 476; 55-11/2813-8825; reinaldolourenco.com) and Herchcovitch (Rua Melo Alves, 561; 55-11/3063-2888; herchcovitch.uol.com.br) are good stores for clothes by local designers.
In our Hometown Guides series, we're seeking the best restaurants, bars, vistas, and things to do in a given place from the people who know best—the artists, designers, chefs, and store-owners who live there. See more Hometown Guides »
Photos: Rógerio Voltan, Rubens Kato