The Copan Strategy

Few images say São Paulo like the Edifício Copan – but the infamous curved tower block in the heart of the city is in need of a make over. HEKKTA dives deeper to find out how the building’s administrator has transformed it’s fortunes and why he refuses to let it die.

The Edifício Copan was designed by Oscar Niemeyer around 50 years ago, but it was Affonso Celso Prazeres de Oliveira (or Don Affonso as they call him) that has brought heart back to the building. The building used to be rife with crime with drug dealers and prostitutes using it as a safe house. Giovanni Bright, a professional magician who has lived in the building for 35 years stated, “When I first moved in, I used to be ashamed to tell people I lived here. It was a mess. There were power cuts. Topless women did drugs on the roof. Anyone could go anywhere”. But it was Affonso that cleaned up the building and turned it around with some calling it, “the coolest building in Latin America”.

However the iconic tower is dropping it’s tiny tiles that cover the front of the building onto the street below and Affonso is desperate to replace them. There is a mesh net in place to prevent injury but Affonso wants a more long term solution. This mission, the Copan Strategy, is quite a job to undertake it has to be said. The building is so large and integral to it’s surroundings that it has it’s own postcode. So imagine trying to replace the area of a city postcode in tiles little larger than thumbnails. That’s the task at hand.

Copan Building

Copan Building

Indeed the project of replacing the 72 million tiles has already hit several bumps in the road as the government is refusing to approve his request as they do not feel the tiles will replicate the old ones as the original factory no longer makes them! Come on guys…invention, innovation, moving with the times!

Don Affonso is approaching 80 years of age and he is keen to retire. But his undying love for the building means he cannot let it go until he knows it’s in a good state and in safe hands. His reputation proceeds him as Pedro Herz, a bookshop magnate stated, “This is the best-administered building I know…When nothing else works in Brazil, Copan works.”

“He cares for the building 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Copan is like his child,” says Herz. “He wants to retire, but we won’t let him.”. HEKKTA hopes this crusader of architecture achieves his final mission in restoring the Edifício Copan. We’re gunning for you Don Affonso!

“My relationship with this building is a passion,” he says. “I am more jealous of it than I am of my wife.”

Don Affonso at work - Copan Strategy

Don Affonso at work – Copan Strategy