Martinelli Building in São Paulo, Brazil - Atlas Obscura

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Martinelli Building

This skyscraper once housed weapons during the revolution and was the scene of two brutal crimes that shocked São Paulo society. 


The Martinelli Building (or Edifício Martinelli in Portuguese), with its 28 floors, is the first skyscraper built in Brazil. Located in São Paulo, it is 105 meters tall.

Construction began in 1924, and was completed in 1929. At the time of its opening, it was the tallest building in Latin America, and the largest concrete-framed building in the world. Although today it seems modest when compared to other huge buildings in the capital, the building designed by Italian businessman Giuseppe Martinelli carries with it tons of history and various curiosities.

The news of the construction of the tallest building in the city brought terror to the people of São Paulo at the time. Still accustomed to smaller buildings, with up to four floors, residents of the region feared that the construction would collapse. Giuseppe Martinelli then had to present various documents to the authorities to attest to the safety of the project. Martinelli then decided to live in the building to prove to everyone that it would not collapse. For this, he built a palace on top of the building, where he and his family lived for years.

The building’s fame goes far beyond the architectural beauty of its 30 floors. The list of mysteries is extensive. In the 1930s, a woman killed herself and some say she is still there haunting people at the end of the day, at night. Some people who walk around the building say they hear cabinets and doors slam all the time. During the Constitutionalist Revolution of 1932, the Martinelli was a hiding place for weapons and anti-aircraft batteries. All this to defend São Paulo from the forces of the provisional government of Getúlio Vargas. In 1947, a boy was strangled and thrown down an elevator shaft. In 1960, a minor was raped and killed by five men.

Between the 1960s and 1970s, the building fell into decay. After a dark period, the building was expropriated and, in 1975, renovated by then-mayor Olavo Setúbal. The reopening took place four years later, in 1979. Nowadays, the building houses SP Urbanismo and other municipal bodies and the terrace is open for guided tours.

Know Before You Go

How to get there: Get off at São Bento subway station (blue line) at the “São Bento” exit and turn left.

The Martinelli Building team makes education visits through prior scheduling Monday to Friday from 9am to 5pm. About 1 hour long, the mediation developed is based on stories, which guide the central themes to be worked on.

The visits cater to groups of private and public schools, universities, technical courses, social projects and non-governmental organizations, free of charge.

In partnership with KAYAK

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