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When the pavements of São Paulo cry

Mirthes Bernardes or the artist who gave life to the city’s soil

Last Friday, we learned of the death of Mirthes Bernardes, an artist, architect, draughtswoman and visual artist, but did you know that this lady redesigned the pavements on which the Paulists have walked every day for more than 50 years?

Her real name, Mirtes dos Santos Pintos, was modified when she began to work with copper enamelling, taking her mother’s name and adding the “H” to her first name, which became Mirthes Bernardes. This woman worked in the social sector but also as a designer and architect in the public works department for the São Paulo City Council.

In 1965, the city prefecture launched a competition to elect a new pavement model for the state of São Paulo. Without really believing in it, it proposed a pattern between geometry and zigzag shapes inspired by the outline of the economic capital of Brazil. It is at this moment that Mirthes Bernardes will win over the pavements but above all the hearts of the Paulists. The final vote will be made with an application of the different proposals on the floor of Consolação Avenue to give birth to the pavements known as “Piso Paulista”.

She will try to patent her work but the story goes that the lawyer would have disappeared with all the documentation, forcing the artist to write everything by hand so as not to be forgotten. As a tribute, the Mosaico Paulista collective has revisited and personalised this motif by using geometrics to dress a huge staircase located on Rua Joaquim Antunes in Teodoro Sampaio (Pinheiros) which will be called “Escadaria Mirthes Bernardes”.

Mirthes Bernardes, having won this competition, will moreover never have received a penny for her work exhibited daily in the open air, replaced little by little by cold and grey cement covering this motif, composed of hydraulic tiles and Portuguese stones, imagined by this artist fascinated by the enamelling of copper and trees.

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