Martinelli Building

Sao Paulo, Brazil | C.1929

Photo Credit: Rafael Rodegher

How high could a building in São Paulo go? For Giuseppe Martinelli, the answer to that question was as high as he wanted.

After only living in Brazil for two decades, the Italian immigrant had amassed quite a fortune thanks to his shipping empire. Seeing an opportunity to create a lasting legacy in the non-existent skyline of Sao Paolo, Martinelli decided to construct a tower to put the city on the map. But how many stories would it be?

Breaking ground in 1922, the skyscraper was designed to be twelve floors, with cement imported from Sweden and Norway. However, with growing public interest and embracing his inner showman, Martinelli decided to build higher. It went to fourteen floors. Then twenty. Finally at twenty-four floors work was forced to stop by the city, with a fervent debate happening around whether the people of São Paulo wanted skyscrapers towering over their streets. It was decided in court that the building would have to stop at twenty-five floors. But Giuseppe Martinelli had other ideas.

While the “main building” finished at twenty-five floors, Martinelli built his grand five-story home on top of the main building, officially making the structure a whopping thirty floors. At the time of its completion, the towering pink palace was the tallest building in Latin America. Mr. Martinelli still probably wished it was taller.

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