São Paulo, the capital of the state of São Paulo, is the largest city in Brazil with over 18 million people in its metro area.
Founded in 1554 by the Jesuits, the city bloomed to gigantic proportions in the 20th century. Money from coffee exports, once the main activity of the State, boosted industrialization and attracted immigrants from many countries, especially Italy. The immigrants' influence was so strong that even today the Paulistas (São Paulo's natives) speak Portuguese with a peculiar accent. Japanese immigration is also very important, the local colony being the world's largest outside Japan.
Like any big city in a developing country, São Paulo is constantly jammed by its 7.48 million cars; but for the fortunate the helicopter is becoming an alternative, with a fleet of nearly 500 choppers (second only to Tokyo). This leads to a distinctive characteristic
of the city's architecture, for most of the new skyscrapers include helipads.
The history of the Brazilian skyscraper began with São Paulo's Prédio Martinelli in 1929, which initiated a thorough verticalization of the city. By 1959 the old Downtown was crowded with buildings. From the 1960s the center for new skyscrapers moved south to Paulista Avenue. Situated at the highest point in town at 80 meters, buildings on Paulista appear taller from the surrounding areas. In the 1990s with Paulista already saturated, development moved south again to Berrini Avenue and Pinheiros Freeway in the Brooklin region.
With strict land occupation laws São Paulo's skyscrapers are not very tall, with the old Mirante do Vale just topping 170 m. But the number of buildings over 80 meters is so huge that skyscrapers have become the defining feature of the city.