There’s more than a little kismet involved in the fact that an abandoned maternity clinic was the force that set the wheels in motion for the birth of the Rosewood São Paulo, a property that’s become one of the leading examples of superior design and architecture in South America merely two years after its debut.
In 2008, entrepreneur Alexandre Allard stood in front of the abandoned Matarazzo hospital (where more than 500,000 Brazilhians were born) and saw five-star potential in its traditional Tuscan architecture and yellow façade. To him, the building resembled an Italian villa long forgotten by time. The Rosewood Hotels & Resorts’ top brass saw his vision as well, and plans were soon put into motion to construct the first Rosewood location in Latin America, a hotel that would be deeply rooted in Brazilian history, yet honest to Rosewood’s “Sense of Place” ethos. Land was allocated, talent was hired, and blueprints were drafted. Then began a 10-year gestation period that would eventually yield a brick-and-mortar symbol of São Paulo’s future—and a new (and much celebrated) model of design-driven hospitality.
Now entrenched in the city’s Citade Matarazzo neighborhood as if it has always been there, the Rosewood São Paulo owes much of its identity to the talents of Pritzker Prize winning architect Jean Nouvel and renowned designer Philippe Starck, two creative thinkers well versed in creating mood. At the Rosewood, the two men delivered their signature styles infused with the right amount of Brazilian essence. Nouvel’s main contribution is the garden tower that rises 328 feet into the air and overlooks the original hospital footprint. A study in both construction and horticulture, this building is marked by the 10,000 trees that grow on its terraces, part of a biodiversity program that repopulates vegetation from the Mata Atlântica rainforest. “The architecture and the materials belong to the Brazilian countryside, to Brazil, to the land of the redwood tree,” says Nouvel about the project on his website. “This architecture speaks of the past, the present and the future.”
Inside Nouvel’s structure and the renovated dwelling that fronts it at ground level are Starck’s interiors, which fuse old and new with boldness and modernity while nodding to Brazil’s natural environment. In the hotel’s casual brasserie, Blaise, that means wooden walls embedded with green stones made from Brazilian volcanic rocks that have been polished with the same machines used to cut diamonds. In the jazz bar Rabo di Galo, it’s a psychedelic ceiling mural of constellations hand-drawn by Rodrigo de Azevedo Saad. Amid these and other irreverent Starck touches, midcentury-modern furniture and curves in the spirit of Oscar Niemeyer taper down the French master’s idiosyncrasies.
Enhancing Starck’s contributions are 450 artworks by Brazilian artists specially commissioned for the various areas of the property. The grouping—everything from graffiti by street artist Caligrapixo to glass rosettes by master Vik Muniz—offers a dynamic mix that accurately represents Brazil’s prolific art scene.
The Rosewood’s outdoor spaces are equally captivating and multilayered. In the Emerald pool and garden deck, an oasis of olive trees and coconut palms showcases São Paulo’s love of alfresco leisure. The attention to detail here is as meticulous as it is inside. To boot, the pool is lined with custom tiles in 40 different shades of green and blue to emulate the waters of the Bonito region of Brazil.
As far as births go, the Rosewood São Paulo’s 10-year wait wasn’t exactly problem-free, but like with any other succesful delivery, the pains of labor have long been forgotten.
Text by Luis R. Rigual