SAO PAULO – Within the old walls of Sao Paulo’s historic downtown district are some eye-catching orange awnings in Ouvidor Street, specifically at No. 63, the refuge of around 100 artists who decided to “okkupy” a building, construct their homes inside and create their own cultural center.
Since the 1980s on these abandoned premises, lively colors have brightened each of its 13 floors, a painterly rebellion against the grim grayness that dims every corner of Brazil’s financial capital.
Peace and calm reigns inside the building, where only the sound of children playing is to be heard. Their parents came to 63 Ouvidor to escape the frenetic activity of South America’s largest city.
Inside the main entrance is a spacious lobby, in which bookshelves built of cement bricks cover a hole where there once were two elevators. At the back, a granite stairway leads residents to their dwellings.
The door on the third floor is open and in it is a warning written in purple letters: “Satan lives in this house.”
The peeling walls are covered with hand-painted canvases, pictures and a sheet used as a film screen, while the floor is dark parquet with some of the wooden pieces missing.
Well cared-for plants, a big picture window, works of art and stained sofas placed around a clean space of some 1,000 sq. feet (100 sq. meters) characterize this floor, the home of jugglers, graphic designers, artisans and yogis.
An underground atmosphere engulfs the bedroom of Rebel, one of the musicians at 63 Ouvidor. The lighting is feeble, the walls of his room covered with blankets to soundproof his rehearsals, and on his bed is a pink blanket of the Disney princesses.
Rebel, who moved into the building in 2014, months after the “okkupation” began, said “these people are occupying something that belongs to the state. We’re making use of something that was not being used for anything else,” he said.
Two floors above in the “circus,” there is a Venezuelan and an Argentine practicing juggling in a room that smells of food. A couple of backpackers traveling through Brazil, they have been welcomed for several months at 63 Ouvidor, a building becoming known among travelers without much money to spend.
Going up and down the building’s narrow stairways every day are jewelers, tattoo artists, clothes designers, painters, guitarists, dancers, photographers and “multiartists” who have found a place to live and create.
The building also has a spacious terrace with an organic kitchen garden, panoramic views of Sao Paulo, many colors and a metal door with a message for residents: “Doorway to an imaginary reality. Remember the way back.”