Cover sheet. MAIA, Francisco Prestes. Avenues Plan for the city of São Paulo. Companhia Melhoramentos de São Paulo, 1930.

This 2020 should be celebrating the 90th anniversary of one of the main publications on urbanism in Brazil, Introduction to the Study of an Avenue Plan for the City of São Paulo[1], which, it seems, will not happen. A pity because, in this book, the engineer and future mayor of São Paulo, twice (1938-1945 and 1961-1965), Francisco Prestes Maia, presented his project for the transformation of the capital of São Paulo, gathering documents and proposals that help us to understand how São Paulo got to what it is today: a metropolis that, which could have been a “happy dream of a city”, became the “inside of the inside out”, as the poet cried[2].

Even a webinar on the legacy left by Avenues Plan – its proposals and consequences for the city – perhaps already brought possible solutions to mitigate, at least in part, its effects on all of us. But, as such a meeting, it seems, will not occur, this article pays attention to some of the characteristics of the Plano written by Prestes Maia. A supposedly objective text, connected with international debates on urbanism, all within a discourse that aims to impregnate itself with the “efficacy” that the engineer perceived in that debate. At the same time, I will call attention to the presence, within Prestes Maia's text, of some graphic works produced by him for the book, images that will signify kinds of "poetic disarrangements" within his writing that, as said, aimed to incorporate the supposed efficiency of the urbanism of the time. The idea is also to consider how this whole urban modernization project in São Paulo is anchored in a mythical vision of the city’s past – reverberating, then, at the dawn of the dark 1930s, the increasing importance in the São Paulo imaginary of São Paulo pioneers and pioneers. .


In 1930, Avenue Plan for the City of São Paulo was enthusiastically received at the IV Pan-American Congress of Architects in Rio de Janeiro, as a Brazilian contribution to the debate on urbanism in the Americas. Measuring 39x26cm, it was published with almost 360 pages, hardcover lined with luxury fabric and sophisticated paper. It presented a series of old and current photographs of different regions of the city.[3], graphics with proposals for the creation and/or expansion of radial and perimeter avenues in São Paulo and a series of images of projects, maps and other images – especially of European and North American cities – to demonstrate that Prestes Maia’s vision for the future of the capital of São Paulo was anchored in what was most current proposed for western cities. This iconography, in turn, operated as a support for a text written with pretensions to objectivity, focused on its object of interest – São Paulo.

It is impossible to read Maia's book without remembering Roland Barthes, for whom certain texts could be compared to a fabric[4]. Avenue Plan for the City of São Paulo it is constituted as such, intertwining numerous footnotes to the main axis, in addition to an expressive amount of citations in the original (Spanish, French, Italian, English and German) of documents on European and North American urban issues.[5]. Such amalgamation of information from the most diverse origins and in several languages, tends to make it difficult to understand the whole, removing it from the objectivity and intended efficiency, within a writing that was undeniably perceived as “scientific”.

Integrating this structure that organized each segment of the book[6], stood out several exquisite drawings and boards by Prestes Maia himself, projecting ideas for sculptural or architectural monuments that, in the future – and when his project for large avenues was executed –, would “crown” connections between two or more road axes, or would beautify points privileged in the city.

These monument projects exalted both the grandeur that the capital of São Paulo achieved and the São Paulo pioneers it wished to glorify. In at least two of the projects conceived by the engineer, the mythical figures of the Paulistas of the past – the “pioneer” and the “bandeirante” – emerged as the support points from which the city could take its great leap into the future.

In the two times he worked as mayor, Maia will carry on part of his Avenues Plan, tearing up highways, in a process of creating new urban territories, from the remodeling or simple destruction of others[7]. In these efforts he never supplemented his proposals by introducing those monuments he had planned.[8]. However, the fact that they have never been implemented does not eliminate their importance, if we understand them as another indication of the existence of the desire to transform São Paulo into an ideal city, a metropolis dedicated to the future – with a rational urban organization, “ scientific” – but, at the same time, with signs of being heir to a past capable of sustaining and justifying its “vocation” for the future.

The cult of a specifically “Paulista” (and not properly “Brazilian”) ancestry, supporting the ideas for the transformation of São Paulo, contained in the Avenues Plan, presents connections with the wishes expressed by Adolfo A. Pinto, and already discussed here[9]. Both Pinto's and Maia's proposals are manifestations of the same understanding of what São Paulo had become at the beginning of the XNUMXth century and what it could become in the future, having its “mythical past” as the ballast for its future.

Here I will limit the comments to two monuments designed by Prestes Maia. The first, related to the Park “das Cabeceiras do Ipiranga”[10], and the second, designed for Ponte das Bandeiras – commented on in an article already published in this column[11].


Em Avenues Plan, at the end of several of its parts (see note 6), images of the proposed monuments (or details) were published; whether sketches or boards with watercolor drawings, such appearances in most cases have no direct relationship with the chapters they end. If those monument projects were designed to crown one or another junction of avenues designed in the Plano, their representations published at the end of the book's chapters, or at their end (in the two “Appendices”), in turn, work as a crowning point for the book itself.

Avenue Plan page for the city of São Paulo, 1930, by Prestes Maia.

if not Avenues Plan the discourse of competence and efficiency of urbanism prevails - a discipline based on logic and rationality - the drawings with the projects of the monuments placed at the end of practically all the chapters, appear as small disarrangements, delicate indices of poetry, both for the city in becoming, as well as for the “objective” flow of the text.

As mentioned, this structure in which the poetic or the “artistic” appears mainly at the end of each chapter is repeated in the macro structure of the book, since it will be precisely in its “Appendices” – that is, at the end of the treatise and, therefore, in its closing –, that the author will dedicate himself to his ideas for the monuments.


Project conceived for the Parque das “Cabeceiras do Ipiranga”, present in the first of the two “Appendices” (the one dedicated to the parks that Prestes Maia thought for the city[12]), Parque das “Cabeceiras” was part of a series of parks designed for the city. Parks that, in turn, would be linked by parkways that would run along the banks of the rivers that bathed the city.

Here is the germ of that enterprise that would later be known as the “São Paulo marginals”. However, if today these marginal avenues are restricted to the banks of the Tietê and Pinheiros rivers, originally they would have been more comprehensive, forming a circle around the entire city. It would be, therefore, within this large set of perimeter avenues interspersed by parks, that the one that would be full of strong symbolic appeal, a tribute to the “Cabeceiras do Ipiranga” would stand out.[13], that is, to the sources of the river that, in 1822, would witness the proclamation of the country's independence.

The Park would be contemplated with a series of monuments, starting with a grandiose portico, conceived by two parallel pylons placed at the main entrance. A representation of a single of these pylons appears on page 12 of the Avenues Plan finishing off the Introduction of the text. In the drawing, the cars that surround that architectural element show its colossal structure, divided into three parts: a large pedestal (corresponding more or less to three floors of a building), functioning as a base for a rectangular pillar, with each of its four edges would be covered by sculptures representing male nudes, probably indigenous. This pillar would support a large horizontal rectangular shape that would support the representation of a pyre.

The four giants (actually 8, considering that the design represents only one of the two pylons at the entrance) would be the guardians of the Park, tutelary geniuses taking care of the entrance to the sacred territory. Represented as male indigenous figures, they reinforce the mythical dimension to be given to that original space, cradle of the sources of freedom in the country.

In the drawing published on page 33, at the end of the chapter “Expropriations”, it will be clear that the image mentioned above was, in fact, a detail of a larger sculptural/architectural complex. In it are represented two pylons, forming the imposing portico. If in the first image on the left, in the background, you can see the outline of a large architectural element, in the one on page 33, the same element can be seen, in the background on the right. If in the former a narrow space between the pylon and the building was suggested, in the latter a large avenue separated them.

Parque das Cabeceiras do Ipiranga – Pylones, Study. In: MAIA, FP Plan of Avenues for the city of São Paulo, 1930, p. 33.

On page 278, another view of the Park's entrance: the two gigantic pylons framing another architectural complex: a fountain surrounding a large obelisk, with an architectural element behind it marking the background. This proposal, however, is more explicit in plate XVI, between pages 342 and 343 of Avenues Plan. This large complex comprising the fountain, the obelisk and the architectural element was defined by Prestes Maia as the “Central Reason. It ends at Avenida Thereza Christina, the main access to the Park, which confirms Prestes Maia's ever-present interest in closing its grandiose avenue projects with architectural and sculptural monuments that create spectacular perspectives for these parts of the city.

Parque das Cabeceiras do Ipiranga – Central motif, ending at Av. Teresa Cristina, Study. In: MAIA, FP Plan of Avenues for the city of São Paulo, 1930, plate XVI.

As for the architectural element that, in the background, completed that “central motif”, the engineer seemed to be undecided between thinking of it as an “allegorical monument” or as a “party pavilion”. However, when we look at the drawing, we can see that he ended up favoring the idea of ​​the monument – ​​actually a large allegorical panel. Certainly, between the possibility of marking that end of the avenue with a landmark that honored the myth of the birth of the nation's freedom in São Paulo, or taking advantage of the space to give it some more mundane use, Prestes Maia preferred the first option. And this preference is clear in a footnote in which, in broad strokes, the engineer defines what the theme of the frieze should be: “The great relief will unfold the history of access to the plateau. The prostrate giants, the 'sons of the earth', collect the waters that flow from the symbolic source of Ipiranga”[14]. In other words, in the midst of all the rationality claimed for the avenues project that would prepare São Paulo to assume its leadership position in Brazil and Latin America, its author does not shy away from conceiving great sculptural works that would make palpable the mythology of the São Paulo past that he helped to create, here formulating the idea of ​​the “sons of the earth”, the first to drink from the libertarian waters of Ipiranga.


If the Parque das “Cabeceiras do Ipiranga” would be the place to pay homage to the indigenous people of São Paulo – a factor of union between wild nature and the invading Portuguese element –, it would still be possible to build another sacred space to honor the greatest result of that union, the bandeirante. The Ponte das Bandeiras was designed to pay this debt, a very important place within the series of transformations proposed by Prestes Maia for São Paulo, since, in addition to being part of the largest perimeter of the capital, it would also function as the base of a great axis. radial linking north and south of the city. This is what he says about Ponte das Bandeiras, a São Paulo publication from 1942:

The function of the great Bridge is to connect the two sections of Avenida Tiradentes, which on one side will extend to the foot of Santana and on the other to the Anhangabaú Park, constituting the great North-South axis of the City and the trunk of the gigantic Y of which are the branches of Avenida Nove de Julho, already open, and the future Avenida Itororó [today 23 de Maio].[15]

Next to Ponte das Bandeiras, a large rail terminal would be built that would bring together all the railroads that existed in the city, freeing São Paulo from level crossings and other inconveniences. In addition to this terminal, a river port would be built there and, in the surroundings, an airport, the Campo de Marte. To reach this large complex, or to leave it and enter the city, the traveler would pass through the large bridge to be built, dedicated to the flags of São Paulo.

Big Bridge and Bandeirantes Monument, Study (Bridges Bridge). In: MAIA, FP Plan of Avenues for the city of São Paulo, 1930.

On another occasion, I described how the Ponte das Bandeiras, designed by Prestes Maia, would be conceived and decorated, with two huge pylons decorated with sculptures and with a large monumental sculptural complex representing the pioneers in action and facing the interior of the state - precisely the territory that would be taken by them from the indigenous[16].

In the article cited above, there is an explanation for the fact that the sculptural complex of Ponte das Bandeiras was not built as Maia had intended:

(…) as it was originally conceived, with its monument that would certainly be a high theme of beauty, the bridge alone would cost around 18.000 contos; Further changes to the plan, however, and reasons of economy and sobriety advised the suppression of the merely ornamental part, and as the work is being finished, the work will not exceed 6.000 contos; with the remaining 12.000, other essential improvements will be carried out - and this is the criterion of those who, not sacrificing the future, because the monument in one way or another can rise at any time, only cares to shape the framework on which the greatness of St. Paul will rise[17].


Neither the Monument to the Bandeiras da Ponte of the same name nor any other monument announced by Prestes Maia in his Avenues Plan was erected, either in his two terms as mayor, or afterwards. As discouraging as such a situation may seem today, it is certain that it was already foreseen right there, in the 1930 book. As I explained, these projects, from the beginning, did not seem organically connected to the general conception of the transformation of São Paulo, proposed by Mayan pres.

Avenue Plan page for the city of São Paulo, 1930, by Prestes Maia.

Disconnected with all the segments where they appeared, disconnected from the book itself – therefore constituting its appendices – they were doomed not to occur because they were not part of Prestes Maia's priorities. Its objectives were aimed at the circulation of people and goods, and therefore the emphasis of its Avenues Plan it was all directed precisely to the access and circulation routes of capital. The monuments he proposed, for better or for worse, aimed to become civic spaces, spaces for citizenship, geared, at least in theory, to the population. But the population, it seems, was what mattered least in the Avenues Plan. And this is possible to perceive, both because of the little importance that, deep down, art had as a citizen element within a metropolis still in the process of growth (after all, these monument projects could only be thought of as “fantasies”, belonging to the universe of art). dream, not reality), and in the rarefaction with which the social issue, or housing for the low-income sectors, was treated in the book.


90 years after the launch of Avenues Plan the certainty of every paulistano is that the proposal to think of São Paulo as an intertwining of avenues won, which brings us to another poet who laments:

There is no love in sp

a mystical labyrinth

Where graffiti screams

can't describe[18]


[1] – MAIA, Francisco Prestes. Study of an Avenue Plan for the city of São Paulo. São Paulo: Companhia Melhoramentos de São Paulo, 1930. The book has the following title on the spine: Avenue Plan for the City of São Paulo, which is how the work became known.
[2] – “Sampa”, Caetano Veloso, 1978.
[3] – Prestes Maia not only used individual photographs produced by Militão Azevedo, but also certain pairs of photos, showing the “before” and “after” of certain places in São Paulo, proposed by Militão in his book Comparative album of Views of the City of São Paulo (1887). Prestes Maia also created his own comparative duos, showing that the photographer was educated in São Paulo.
[4] —Barthes, Roland. the sound of the tongue. Lisbon: Editions 70, 1987.
[5] – This large number of citations, it should be noted, while emphasizing the supposed objectivity and contemporaneity of the debate in which Prestes Maia’s text was inserted, did not fail to show, here and there, a certain fragmentation of the author’s ideas.
[6] – The book was divided as follows: Two Words; I – Introduction; II Expropriations; III Financial resources; IV The Irradiation Perimeter; V Radials; VI Perimeters. Tietê; VII Transport System Part I: Railways; VIII Transport System – Part II: Underground, Tramways, Buses etc.; IX Extension; X Appendix 1, Parks; 2, Big Bridge.
[7] – Notably those occupied by low-income social groups, especially the black population of the city, forced to leave the center of São Paulo in search of alternatives for housing.
[8] – The City Hall will justify the non-realization of the monuments alleging budgetary issues.
[9] – I refer to the following articles published in this column: “The doctor and the monuments” (18.12.2019); “The pantheon of the immortals of São Paulo: tropical delirium in the Pátio do Colégio” (24.06.2020) and “Bandeirantes em Movimento: between disputes and conciliation” (09.07.2020).
[10] – No documents were found about this Park. However, I assume that it was called Parque da Água Funda until 1969, when it was renamed Parque Estadual das Fontes do Ipiranga. The three denominations refer to the sources of the Tietê River, in São Paulo.
[11] – “Bandeirantes in motion: between disputes and conciliation” (09.07.2020). Such circumscription is due to the fact that, more than the other proposals of the former mayor, these two are markedly sculptural, while the others have more salient architectural characteristics.
[12] – Although the deepening of his ideas about the monuments for the “Cabeceiras do Ipiranga” Park occurs precisely in the Appendix, it is interesting to note that it will be precisely drawings referring to this park that will appear scattered throughout the book, without any connection with the neighboring passages.
[13] – The original proposal for the marginals of São Paulo, starting with that of Tietê, “goes up the Pinheiros course, from the mouth to the Matadouro stream (Cortume or Sapateiro), through which it reaches the wintering of Ibirapuera. It continues along Aracy Avenue and then through a new one to the park at the headwaters of Ipiranga. It takes approximately the Cursino path, over the divider between Ipiranga and Tamanduateí; follows the Sacomã stream, crosses the Inglesa trails; takes advantage of a small stretch of radial av. Wilson or the States; follows the Mooca stream, crosses the Vila Prudente column with curves that its character of parkway admits, and from the Tatuapé valley to the confluence with the Tietê”. According to the author, the parks that would be served by this meeting of marginals would be: “Parque da Ponte Grande, ditto da Lapa, airport, Butantã park, Ibirapuera Park, Ipiranga headwaters park, Sacoman lagoons, Belenzinho sports park , in addition to others, large or small, to be created. in MAIA, Francisco P. op.cit. page 122,123.
[14] – MAIA, Francisco Prestes. Op. Cit. Note 3, pg. 342.
[15] – “Bridges Bridge and Praça das Estaçãos Reunidas” In Sao Paulo. XNUMXth century metropolis. Sao Paulo. Associated Publications Company, 1942, pag.46. This publication seems to have been designed to value the actions of Francisco Prestes Maia as mayor of the city. In addition to several unsigned articles on the mayor's undertakings, texts were published by the following authors: Nelson Mendes Caldeira ("A quick view of America's largest cities), Sergio Milliet ("São Paulo in 188"), Nuto Sant'Ana ("The old papers from the Municipal Archive of São Paulo”) and José Armando Affonseca (“Mayor Prestes Maia”).
[16] – See note 10.
[17] – “Bridges Bridge and Praça das Estaçãos Reunidas” …, p. 43.
[18] – Creole. “There is no love in SP”, 2011.

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