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Museum of the Portuguese Language

São Paulo, Brazil

Museum of the Portuguese Language

The Museum of the Portuguese Language in São Paulo, Brazil, aims to create a living representation of the Portuguese language, where visitors may be surprised and educated by unusual and unfamiliar aspects of their own native language.

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The museum is housed in the Estação da Luz train station, a landmarked Victorian structure built in 1901 that is still used daily by 300,000 commuters. The location is symbolic: it was mainly here that thousands of non-Portuguese speaking immigrants arriving from Europe and Asia into São Paulo via the Port of Santos got acquainted with the language for the first time.

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RAA worked with curators, philosophers, writers, musicians, and scholars of all backgrounds and cultures to present Portuguese as a dynamic, evolving expression of Brazil’s cultural heritage.

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Reading of Brazilian literature accompanied by music animate the Language Plaza, a language planetarium where images and words are projected onto its historic, vaulted ceiling, walls, and floor.

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The Grand Gallery contains a 120-meter-long digital mural, whose 36 synchronized projectors create a metaphorical train journey through the country. 11 films convey the richness of Brazil’s culture.

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The Gallery of Influences invites visitors to explore the languages and people that contributed to Brazilian Portuguese and to discover the origins of words still used. An interactive timeline presents the roles Portuguese, African, and indigenous traditions and languages have played in forming the contemporary language. An interactive Etymology Table invites visitors to play with and create words and to learn the origins of the words they use.

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The museum is one of Brazil’s most visited museums and hosted some 2 million visitors since its opening before a large fire in 2015. It has since reopened. It has also been a key element in the revitalization of São Paulo’s downtown area.

Year 2006

Size 12,000 square feet

Architect Restoration Architecture: Paulo and Pedro Mercedes de la Rocha

AwardsEvent Marketer, Event Design Award: Silver, Best Museum EnvironmentInternational Association of Lighting Designers (IALD) Award: Winner, Award of MeritThe Society for Enviromental Graphic Design (SEGD) Global Design Award: Honor Award, Exhibition Design/Museum Environments

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Photography © Peter Mauss