One of the top cultural attractions in São Paulo, Fundação Maria Luisa e Oscar Americano is an oasis of tranquility and beauty in the upscale Morumbi district. A stunning 1950 house in Modernist style containing an art collection with a strong Brazilian flair, an auditorium for concerts and a tea room, surrounded by a park with await visitors on the 18.5-acre property.
The foundation's collection comprises paintings from the 17th century on, furniture, porcelains, tapestries, and sacred art, among other items, spanning about four centuries.
Once the vacation chácara and later the home of engineer and entrepreneur Oscar Americano (1908-1974) and his wife, Maria Luisa Americano (1918-1972).
Born in São Paulo - and a volunteer in São Paulo State's Constitutionalist Revolution of 1932 - Americano founded Companhia Brasileira de Projetos e Obras - CBPO, which would later be acquired by construction giant Odebrecht.
When the couple decided to take up permanent residence on the property, Maria Luisa Americano was actively involved in all the related projects, including construction and the planting of trees in the vast gardens with a landscaping project by Otávio Mendes Teixeira of Ibirapuera Park fame - a project which preceded the one for the house.
Coffee, brazilwood (Caesalpinia echinata), after which Brazil is named, sibipiruna (Caesalpinia pluviosa) and jacaranda are some of the species found in the park.
The architect chosen for the house project was Oswaldo Bratke (1907-1997), one of the luminaries of Modernism in Brazilian architecture. Though the versatile professional designed public landmarks such as train stations, industrial buildings and Grande Hotel Campos do Jordão, Bratke is best known for residential architecture, with hundreds of projects in São Paulo's garden districts (known as Jardins) and Morumbi, where he had his own award-winning home built in 1951.
Maria Luisa, Oscar Americano and their five children lived in the house for over 20 years. After her death, Americano donated the property and the art collection to the city of São Paulo. The Maria Luisa e Oscar Americano Foundation was established in 1974 and opened its doors to the general public in 1980.
The scenic and peaceful grounds create a good setting for weddings; it was here that Athina Onassis Roussel married Brazilian Olympic showjumper Álvaro de Miranda Neto. The space is also available for corporate events and parties.
The artistic and historic objects on display include pieces amassed by the Americano family and items added over time. The main themes are Colonial Brazil, including works by Frans Post and other 17th century paintings as well as items from the 18th century; Empire Brazil (Brasil Império), with a focus on oil portraits; and 20th century Masters, with Portinari, Brecheret, Lasar Segall and Di Cavalcanti among the outstanding artists represented.
The Foundation is one of the best places in town for afternoon tea. It is served in a tea room filled with daylight and looking onto the garden, from Tuesday to Sunday (check for updates on the Foundation's Facebook page).
The auditorium hosts musical performances, particularly of chamber music - and on the first Saturday of the month, they are free. Among the performers are groups of participants in Projeto Guri (www.projetoguri.org.br), an outstanding organization aimed at promoting musical education for the young.
You can find the current schedule on the foundation's Facebook page and official website (under "Programação").
Av. Morumbi 4077
São Paulo - SP
Hours: Tue-Sun 10 a.m.–5:30 p.m.