A Unique Patch of Native Forest Survives at the Heart of America’s Largest City

© Paula Alvarado

“In no other country of this modernized world, the technology of reinforced concrete has been as predominant as it is in Brazil. It is the absolutely hegemonic structural material on constructions in Brazilian cities, whether they are formal or informal”. Those are the words of architect, doctor in Education and professor Roberto Eustaáquio dos Santos in a paper called The Culture of Reinforced Concrete in Brazil.

Although this construction technique spread worldwide, the before mentioned paper refers not only to its adoption but also its eager celebration by Brazilian constructions. The causes behind it are complex (the before mentioned paper has some interesting points on the subject), but its result can be seen in the work of architects like Oscar Niemeyer and Paulo Mendes da Rocha, who embraced the freedom of form it allowed and became world-famous creating audacious shapes with it (and exposing it).

© Paula Alvarado

© Paula Alvarado

If naked reinforced concrete is a symbol of Brazilian architecture and urbanism, in few places it can be seen as in Sao Paulo, the largest city in America at 11.3 million people. The Sao Paulo Museum of Art and Brazilian Museum of Sculpture are some of the landmarks, but you can feel the style of a movement which inspired the name “Brazilian Brutalism” just walking the Avenida Paulista, with its towering buildings more intimidating than New York City's skyscrapers.

There are words about concrete at the beginning of a piece about a park because it is important to understand this in order to understand why the Trianon, also known as Tenente Siqueira Campos, is such a unique space in a city like Sao Paulo. Knowing this and seeing the buildings and feeling the roughness of concrete, one can forgive people for using clichés such as “Peaceful oasis,” “A breath of fresh-air,” “Patch of green in the concrete jungle,” when referring to the park. One cannot, actually, find better words than those to describe it.

© Wikimedia Commons

© Paula Alvarado

A flyer handled at the administration office inside the park holds the information that seems to have been used by every website which published something about Trianon Park: it was created in 1892 and projected by French landscape artist Paul Villon, it used to be larger and had a belvedere where the Sao Paulo Museum of Art now stands, it was created when the city was developing and the local aristocracy looked to XIX European Romanticism for influences, which gave the park the appearance of an English garden, some of its later changes were signed by Roberto Burle Marx, its area is 12 acres.

But what’s more important takes a lot less place than the history and the names, it appears in just one line: the Trianon is the only remaining piece of native Atlantic Forest in the area. Native is an important word here, significant when considering that world famous parks and urban forests such as the Central Park in New York and Tijuca in Rio de Janeiro are man-made.

This fact and the contrast of the lush, green patch that sprouts from the center of the concrete roughness of the city, make the small Trianon an incredible spot.

© Paula Alvarado

© Paula Alvarado

At the park, one can only confirm that all the benefits forests are said to provide are true: it is a fresh, clean air, microclimate on hot days and the trees buffer the noise of car-heavy Sao Paulo to the point that a few meters into it feel like a block or two away from the street.

Local species found there, according to information from Sao Paulo's City Hall, include araribá, canela-amarela, jequitibá, cedro-rosa, sapucaia, pau-ferro, sapopemba and tamboril, along with abiurana, tapiá-guaçu, palmito-jussara, andá-açu, guaraiúva and camboatá. There are also some introduced species such as seafórtia and palmeira-de-leque-da-china. The association Friends of the Trees of Sao Paulo says one can find fruits like the uvaia in the park.

But all those are names, data with little meaning. The lure of this urban park is found quietly sitting inside, feeling whatever it is that one feels inside of a forest. Only in this case, a few steps away from a metro station.

© Paula Alvarado

Tags: Brazil | Forestry | Latin America | Urban Life

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