Casa Higienópolis: a São Paulo mansion reborn to display the best of Brazilian style and history

Casa Higienópolis is the latest revival project by retail company Iguatemi, a mansion merging neoclassical style and Brazilian flair

Casa Higienópolis São Paulo interiors
Jorge Zalszupin’s 1959 ‘Petalas’ coffee table and 1962 ‘Adriana’ chairs, reissued by Etel, take centre stage in one of the sumptuous lounge areas
(Image credit: Tuca Reinés)

Brazil’s long-established agency for the preservation of culturally significant sites and buildings, the Institute for National Artistic and Historical Heritage (IPHAN), has been successful in protecting many of its modern architectural icons, among them Oscar Niemeyer’s Brasília Cathedral and Affonso Eduardo Reidy’s Museum of Modern Art in Rio de Janeiro. 

But in a country with plenty of historically significant architecture – from baroque to brutalist – there have been misses, the result of politics, scarce resources, and other challenges that every country faces in its preservation efforts. 

Casa Higienópolis exterior in São Paulo

The entrance to the mansion

(Image credit: Tuca Reinés)

Most notably in São Paulo, the opulent mansions built by sugar and coffee barons in the mid-to-late 19th and early 20th centuries have all but disappeared, despite their unique place in the city’s history. Progress has been made in the form of legal protection for the few homes that remain. But protection is one thing, restoration is quite another. The hefty bill that comes with the latter often falls on patrons of the arts such as Carlos Jereissati

‘These buildings are part of our DNA. They are part of who we are, the history of our city, and broader Brazil. We can’t let them disappear,’ says the former CEO and current board member of Iguatemi, the company that introduced the shopping mall to Brazil during the late 1960s. ‘We need to lead by example in these things, to show the bright side of our culture, in the past and now, during our time.’

Casa Higienópolis: Iguatemi's latest revival project

Casa Higienopolis in Sao Paulo

Casa Higienópolis’s gothic-style wood panels and doors are now complemented by gilded walls, modernist café tables and contemporary Flos lighting in the bar area

(Image credit: Tuca Reinés)

Jereissati’s commitment to preservation has only grown with practice. Iguatemi’s latest revival project, Casa Higienópolis, is the company’s third. In 2014, he acquired an essential but overlooked steel and glass home inspired by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s Farnsworth House and restored it to create Casa Jereissati. 

Earlier this year, working with Lissa Carmona of furniture maker Etel, he transformed modernist icon Jorge Zalszupin’s former home (a key example of modern Brazilian design) into Casa Zalszupin, a museum dedicated to the designer’s legacy. 

Carlos Jereissati portrait at Casa Higienopolis balcony

Carlos Jereissati at Casa Higienópolis

(Image credit: Tuca Reinés)

Casa Higienópolis is located in its namesake neighbourhood, one of the city’s most noble. The five-storey, 2,400 sq m, French neoclassical-style mansion was commissioned in 1927 by Carlos Leôncio Magalhães, a wealthy coffee farmer, entrepreneur and financier of the era, known as the ‘King of Coffee’. Today, the mansion  sits in stark contrast to its surroundings. Higienópolis comprises mostly midcentury high-rises, such as Edifício Louveira and Edifício Bretagne, which helped redefine this upscale neighbourhood in the late 1950s. 

Casa Higienopolis in Sao Paulo

Original architectural fixtures

(Image credit: Tuca Reinés)

Inside, neoclassical design mingles with Brazilian flair. The mansion’s 40 rooms are replete with French-inspired period details, including intricate, handcarved woodwork and ornate plaster ceilings. It has all been painstakingly restored, providing a stunning juxtaposition to Zalszupin’s modern furniture used throughout, and a portion of Iguatemi’s contemporary art collection. 

Highlights include works by Rio de Janeiro-based artist Chiara Banfi, who looks to the world of music to inform her installations and sculptures. It all gives visitors a deep and varied sense of Brazilian history, a gift to not only Iguatemi’s customers and partners, but also the city.

Casa Higienopolis in Sao Paulo

Art deco-inspired bathroom

(Image credit: Tuca Reinés)

In keeping with its restored sister properties, Casa Higienópolis will be used for everything from fashion events and VIP client luncheons to accommodation for visiting fashion industry figures; it will also host an extensive calendar of public events. The first is a new architectural walking tour of the neighbourhood, created by Iguatemi and operated out of Casa Higienópolis. 

‘We are not typical shopping mall owners. We don’t just rent out spaces, but are committed to inspiring our clients and neighbours,’ says Jereissati. ‘My vision for Iguatemi has always been about celebrating the best of Brazil.

A version of this article appears in the December 2022 Entertaining Issue of Wallpaper*, available in print, on the Wallpaper* app on Apple iOS, and to subscribers of Apple News +. Subscribe to Wallpaper* today

Casa Higienopolis in Sao Paulo

The mansion's exterior immersed in the garden's greenery

(Image credit: Tuca Reinés)

Inside Casa Higienopolis in São Paulo

(Image credit: Tuca Reinés)

Scott Mitchem is one of the longest-tenured Wallpaper* contributors, joining the team in 1999 after attending Purdue University and moving to New York City from his hometown of Chicago. He started as an editorial associate, later served as Brazil Editor-at-Large while living in São Paulo, and is currently a contributing editor based in Miami. Scott covers design, architecture, travel, and all things Brazil while working as an executive in design and real estate development and working towards a Master’s Degree at Georgetown University. He has written for many other publications and was one of several authors who recently contributed to The Architecture of Studio MK27, a book by Rizzoli chronicling the history of the acclaimed Brazilian architecture studio founded by Marcio Kogan. 

With contributions from