Keep an eye out, or you might miss the Museu Brasileiro de Escultura (a.k.a. MuBE, pronounced MOO-bee). Widely considered the masterpiece of Pritzker Prize-winner Paulo Mendes da Rocha, the building was in fact born out of the desire to have no building at all. When in the 1980s an empty lot in Sao Paulo's mansion-laden Jardins district was slated to become a shopping mall, wealthy residents successfully lobbied to create a public square instead. To sweeten the deal and ensure the land stayed commercial-free, they hired Mendes de Rocha to create MuBE. Completed in 1995, the 7000-sq-meter museum hunkers down beneath ground level, thus preserving what in Sao Paulo is that rarest of luxuries: a public green space. A protegé of Vilanova Artigas, Mendes da Rocha has long been associated with the so-called Paulista school, also known as Brazilian Brutalism. Its adherents, including Joaquim Guedes and Lina Bo Bardi, are known for spanning vast spaces using the simplest materials and forms -- above all, long blocks of raw concrete. At MuBE, Mendes de Rocha had to severely limit this desire to make mass float, since most of the museum lies underground. However, he does include one classically Brutalist outcropping -- a long, difficult-to-define structure that looks something like a long table or bench. Besides providing shelter from the city's fierce sun and summer downpours, it subtly defines the space of the outdoor sculpture gardens.
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