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architexts ISSN 1809-6298


Parte do catálogo da exposição Modernités Plurielles 1905-1970 em exibição no Beaubourg de Paris e que apresenta originais da arte e da arquitetura latino-americanas, o texto comenta o desenvolvimento da historiografia da arquitetura no Brasil.

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MOIMAS, Valentina. Modern Architecture in Brazil. A History Being Written. Arquitextos, São Paulo, year 14, n. 168.00, Vitruvius, may 2014 <>.

“Architecture isn’t the Wild West.” That was Lúcio Costa’s response to Geraldo Ferraz (1) in 1948, when the latter invited him to reestablish the true history of the origins of modern architecture in Brazil and the identity of its real pioneers: Gregóri Warchavchik and Flávio de Carvalho (2). Although, in his response, Costa recognized that work produced in the late 1920s was the first to open a discussion inBrazilon the topic of modern architecture, he affirmed that an architecture with its own striking singularity and which could truly be called Brazilian did not emerge until a decade later. Oscar Niemeyer, who had derived his knowledge of modernist precepts directly from Le Corbusier, was for Costa one of the movement’s greatest representatives, expressing the nation's spirit in his works. It was thus pointless to look for modernism’s “pioneers” in the earlier period. Costa, instead, emphasized the “Brazilianity” of the architecture produced by Niemeyer’s generation.

Santa Paula Yacht Club, Interlagos, São Paulo, 1961. Arquitetos João Batista Artigas e Carlos Cascaldi. Elevation by the architect for an exhibition in 1982
Inv.: AM 2013-2-440. Collection architecture du Musée national d’art moderne/C Foto George [Centre Pompidou © MNAM-CCI/Dist. RMN-GP]

It is true that at the moment of this polemic, modern Brazilian architecture was at the forefront of the international scene. The catalogue of the exhibition “Brazil Builds: Architecture New and Old, 1642-1942,” organized at theMuseumofModern Art(MoMA) inNew Yorkby Philip Goodwin in 1943, contributed enormously to its influence.Rio de Janeiro’s Ministry of Education andHealthBuilding, begun in 1937, and the Brazilian pavilion of the 1939New YorkWorld’s Fair are generally considered the starting points of this new architecture. Thenceforth, Brazilian architecture was covered by many magazines (3) and exhibitions were organized in several countries. A 1956 book by the Brazilian architect Henrique Mindlin (4), with a preface by Sigfried Giedion, took up and expanded upon the MoMA catalogue in displaying a panorama of works built between 1937 and 1956. The third reference work on Brazilian architecture was by the Frenchman Yves Bruand (5). While certainly the most complete, it nevertheless displayed the then-current hegemonic perspective that, under Costa's influence, had guided the earlier publications (6).

According to Costa, Brazilian architecture was, on the one hand, the result of the fusion of European principles and Brazilian national culture, and, on the other, the product of “native genius.”

In this version of history, Le Corbusier appears as the principal vector for the diffusion of modern ideas fromEurope, both through his 1929 lectures, repeated inBrazilin 1936, and through his joint work with a young Brazilian team during the preliminary studies for the Ministry of Health and Education building project (1936).

Technical School of Commerce, Santos, 1963-1965. Aerial view. Drawing by the architect in 2009
Inv.: AM 2009-2-371 (001). Collection architecture du Musée national d’art moderne/Centre [Centre Pompidou © MNAM-CCI/Dist. RMN-GP]

In reality, Le Corbusier’s ideas were disseminated in Brazilin the early 1920s through the magazine L’Esprit nouveau, which had subscribers inBrazil. And, in São Paulo in 1925, two architectural manifestos, one signed Rino Levi, the other Gregóri Warchavchik (7), took up the refrain. In 1926 Fernand Léger and Blaise Cendrars informed Le Corbusier that the construction of the new Brazilian capital, Planaltina (the future Brasilia), specified in the first republican constitution of 1891, was on the agenda, and put him in contact with Paulo Prado. It was thanks to this important sponsorship that Cendrars visited Brazil and Le Corbusier added this new stage to his first South American trip. During the 1929 visit he had the opportunity to tour the houses built by Warchavchik. This visit was followed by a party at the architect’s home, attended, notably, by Flávio de Carvalho and the journalist Geraldo Ferraz (8), who, upon learning of the Swiss architect's arrival, had prepared a questionnaire for him. Le Corbusier went so far as to write a letter to Giedion recommending Warchavchik as a South American delegate to the CIAM. Le Corbusier would never have the opportunity to work onBrasilia, since the 1957 competition to define its pilot plan was strictly national. Lúcio Costa was the winner.

Londrina Yacht Club perspective, 1959. Architects João Walter Toscano, Odiléa Setti Toscano, Julio Roberto Katinsky, Abrahão Velvu Sanovicz
Inv.: AM 2011-2-680 (4). Collection architecture du Musée national d’art moderne/Centre de [Centre Pompidou © MNAM-CCI/Dist. RMN-GP]

The specificity ofBrazil’s national culture, Costa explained, was that it was rooted in tradition: “InBrazil, in 1922 as in 1936, those who were committed to renovation were the same as those who strove for ‘preservation,’ whereas elsewhere, at that time, people educated in diametrically opposite ways clashed over these goals. In 1922, Mário [de Andrade], Tarsila, Oswald [de Andrade] and the rest, at the same time they were bringing our out-of-date culture up to speed internationally, were also exploring the ancient cities of Minas and the North, in an ‘anthropophagic’ quest for our roots; in 1936, the architects who struggled to adapt architecture to new construction technologies were the same who worked with Rodrigo M. F. de Andrade to study and preserve forever our authentic past” (9).

Londrina Yacht Club perspective, 1959. Architects João Walter Toscano, Odiléa Setti Toscano, Julio Roberto Katinsky, Abrahão Velvu Sanovicz
Inv.: AM 2011-2-680 (4). Collection architecture du Musée national d’art moderne/Centre de [Centre Pompidou © MNAM-CCI/Dist. RMN-GP]

This tradition, which structured the thought even of those who opposed it, brought the local dimension into consideration. The narrative was nourished as well by the local/global opposition represented by tradition versus modern ideas. In a fundamental text of the 1950s, the writer and critic Antonio Candido studied local/international interaction in Brazilian culture. He maintained that “if it were possible to establish a law of evolution for our spiritual life, we could perhaps consider it to be entirely determined by the dialectic between the local and the cosmopolitan.” (10) Candido located the source of the tension between the two concepts “in the ethnic realm, in the condition of the Latin people, culturally of European heritage but ethnically mixed, tropical, influenced by primitive cultures.” (11) Furthermore, he posited that Primitivism, as developed in Europe, was in fact better suited to the Brazilian context. Oswald de Andrade, in 1949, had also maintained that in France Primitivism appeared merely as an exoticism, while for Brazilian Modernists it was genuine “Primitivism.” (12) This confrontation was capital in Andrade’s vision of Pau-Brasil: “a quest for synthesis between the multiracial culture of Brazil and a basis of European civilization” (13).

Finally, tradition was invoked again by José Lins do Rego in an article in L’Architecture d’aujourd’hui, entitled “L’homme et le paysage” [Man and Landscape]: “Modern architects looked for what was vital in ancient houses, what was functional in some of the Portuguese colonists’ solutions, and managed to correct monstrous errors by integrating stone, mortar, cement, iron, wood, in fact all construction materials, in the heart of the landscape.” (14) This was a tradition unlimited by type, form, or material, based above all on the relationship of human being and landscape.

House-atelier Tomie Ohtake, São Paulo, 1966-1998. Architect Ruy Ohtake. Perspective
Inv.: AM 2011-2-680 (4). Collection architecture du Musée national d’art moderne/Centre de [Centre Pompidou © MNAM-CCI/Dist. RMN-GP]

A text by Costa published in the same issue of the magazine illustrated his idea of the native genius ofBraziland its creativity. “Fundamentally, it is the national personality expressed through figures of ‘native’ artistic genius using the materials, techniques, and artistic vocabulary of our era. […] It is not a mere quest for 'originality’ or a silly obsession with ‘daring’ or “bizarre’ solutions—which would be the very opposite of art—but the legitimate course of innovating, delving to the very depths of the potentialities of new techniques, with the sacred obsession of truly creative artists, to reveal the heretofore unrevealed world of form” (15).

Milan House, São Paulo, 1972-1975. Architect Marcos Acayaba. Perspective Croquis
Inv.: AM 2011-2-680 (4). Collection architecture du Musée national d’art moderne/Centre de [Centre Pompidou © MNAM-CCI/Dist. RMN-GP]

This vision, propagated in Braziland beyond for decades, was here raised to the status of a founding myth. The development and operation of this narrative would be brought into question only by the new historiography (16), originating with the generation of historians produced by university curricula introduced in the 1970s and early 1980s. The turn between these two decades saw the birth of new specialty magazines (Projeto, 1979, and AU, 1985) and university magazines (Gávea, 1984, and Óculum, 1992).

Milan House, São Paulo, 1972-1975. Architect Marcos Acayaba. Perspective Croquis
Inv.: AM 2011-2-555. Collection architecture du Musée national d’art moderne/Centre de cré [Centre Pompidou © MNAM-CCI/Dist. RMN-GP]

We cannot describe here the volume and richness of the historiographic and scientific production of the past thirty years (17). Nevertheless, in light of the interrogation of the narrative concerning modern Brazilian architecture's origin and characteristics, it is interesting to observe that the relationship to nature and the landscape is still in effect today. The historian Abílio Guerra demonstrated this in the exhibition “Brazilian Architecture. Living in the Forest” (18), as well as in his writing (19). With the first issue of the magazine Klaxon (1922), the Modernists seized upon the idea of Graça Aranha (20), to whom they dedicated the magazine, that tropical nature formed the basis of the natural character. The traveling they did in the 1920s, particularly with Cendrars in 1924, brought them face to face with wild landscapes, simple people, and a past in which they sought elements that would be meaningful in the contemporary world. “The inventory of Brazilian life produced by Mário de Andrade is the foundation of a solid cultural project offering an art inflected by erudition and raised upon a pedestal of popular culture: Tarsila’s painting, Oswald’s poetry, Villa-Lobos’ music, Lúcio Costa’s architecture,” (21) recalled Guerra. In the exhibition, the historian traced the connection running from the project for Monlevade de Costa (1934) to Tenório Angelo Bucci’s beach house (2009) by way of Pampulha (1943) and Oscar Niemeyer’s Ibirapuera Park, Oswaldo Arthur Bratke’s Vila Serra do Navio (1959), João Batista Vilanova Artigas and Carlos Cascaldi’s Faculty of Architecture and Urban Planning (1961), Marcos Acayaba’s Baeta House (1994), Ruy Ohtake’s Tietê Ecological Park (1970–2012), and Decio Tozzi’s Veneza Farm Chapel (2002). Landscape, in all its forms, is at the heart of each of these projects. Bucci and Acayaba’s houses have footprints reduced to the minimum, in order to preserve the tropical forest, and are open to the surrounding panorama. The pilings of Costa’s Monlevade houses allow residents to go about their lives in the fresh air but sheltered from the sun. The shade of Niemeyer’s marquees stretches from one building to another: nature is welcoming rather than threatening, inviting walkers to stroll at their ease. Natural elements become part of the architectural composition, like the water in Tozzi’s open air chapel.

In his text “The Spirit of South America,” Le Corbusier recalled what his friend Blaise Cendrars said about Brazilians: “Whatever they do, with their little urban plans, the landscape will crush them.” (22) This woeful prophesy, of course, never came to pass.

Valentina Moimas and Decio Tozzi, Technical School of Commerce, model, Santos SP. Architects Decio Tozzi and Luiz Carlos Ramos
Foto divulgação

[translated from French by Phoebe Green]


EN - This text was originally published in the catalogue of the Modernités Plurielles 1905-1970 / Multiple Modernities 1905-1970 exhibition (pages 166-169), curated by Catherine Grenier at the Centre National d’Art et de Culture Georges Pompidou, Beaubourg, Paris. It is open for visiting from the 23rd of October, 2013, until February, 2015. About the exhibition: ZAKIA, Silvia Palazzi. Uma exposição e dois livros. Modernidades plurais e a revisão da história da arquitetura moderna brasileira. Arquiteturismo, São Paulo, ano 08, n. 085.08, Vitruvius, mar. 2014 <>.

The students responsible for the publication of the portfolio “Arquitetura contemporânea no Brasil” in the magazine Anteprojeto (1947) had dedicated it to Costa, whom they considered the master of traditional architecture and the pioneer of contemporary architecture in Brazil. This dedication provoked Ferraz’s reaction: see G. Ferraz, “Falta o depoimento de Lúcio Costa,” Diário de São Paulo, 1 February 1948, and Costa’s reply, from which the quote is taken, dated 21 February 1948, published in O Jornal, 14 March 1948 [author’s translation to French]. These two articles were reprinted in Lúcio Costa, Lúcio Costa. Sôbre arquitetura. Cartas, entrevistas, manifestações e pronunciamentos, ed. A. Xavier, Porto Alegre, Editora UniRitter/Centro Universitário Dos Reis, 1962, pp. 119-128.

To explore the two architects’ work during this period, which extends to the 1930s, see Cécilia Rodríguez dos Santos, “L’autre phare de Colomb. Origines de l’architecture moderne au Brésil,” in Art d’Amérique Latine, 1911–1968, exh. cat., Paris, Éditions du Centre Pompidou, 1992, pp. 116-119, and L. Costa, “SPHAN. Serviço do Patrimônio Histórico e Artístico Nacional” (1970), in Lúcio Costa. Registro de uma Vivência, São Paulo, Empresa das Artes, 1995, p. 437. The SPHAN, founded January 1937, is Brazil’s National Service of Historic and Artistic Heritage.

In France, see monograph issues of L’Architecture d’aujourd’hui, no. 13/14, September 1947; no. 42/43, August 1952; no. 90, June 1960; no. 171, January-February 1974.

Henrique Mindlin was one of the Brazilian architects featured in “Brazil Builds.” See Henrique E. Mindlin, Modern Architecture in Brazil, New York: Reinhold Publishing Corp., 1956.

Yves Bruand, Arquitetura contemporânea no Brasil, São Paulo, Perspectiva, 1981. This is a Portuguese translation of Bruand’s doctoral dissertation, under the supervision of André Chastel, which he defended in 1973.

There are numerous reflections on the relationship between Costa and the theses of these three works, and on his role in the construction of the story of modern Brazilian architecture, including: Carlos Alberto Ferreira Martins, “Hay algo de irracional… Apuntes sobre la historiografía de la arquitectura brasileña,” Block, no. 4, December 1999, pp. 8-22; reprinted in Abílio Guerra (ed.), Textos fundamentais sobre história da arquitetura moderna brasileira, vol. II, São Paulo, Romano Guerra, 2010, pp. 131-168; Abílio Guerra, “A construção de um campo historiográfico,” in A. Guerra (ed.) Textos fundamentais sobre história da arquitetura moderna brasileira, vol. I, São Paulo, Romano Guerra, 2010, pp. 11-22; id., “Lúcio Costa. Modernidade e tradição. Montagem discursiva da arquitetura moderna brasileira,” doctoral dissertation, Universidade Estadual de Campinas, Unicamp, 2002.

For more information on the two manifestos, see C. Rodríguez dos Santos, “L’autre phare de Colomb. Origines de l’architecture moderne au Brésil,” art. cit., p. 127.

Geraldo Ferraz, Warchavchik e a introdução da nova arquitetura no Brasil, 1925 a 1940, São Paulo, Museu de Arte São Paulo, 1965, p. 29; José Lira, Warchavchik. Fraturas da vanguarda, São Paulo, Cosac Naify, 2011, p. 185; Luiz Carlos Daher, Flávio de Carvalho. Arquitetura e expressionismo, São Paulo, Projeto, 1982, p. 30.

L. Costa, “SPHAN. Serviço do Patrimônio Histórico e Artístico Nacional” (1970), in Lúcio Costa. Registro de uma vivência, São Paulo, Empresa das Artes, 1995, p. 437. The SPHAN, founded January 1937, is Brazil’s National Service for Historic and Artistic Heritage.

Antonio Candido, Litteratura e sociedade, São Paulo, Companhia Editora Nacional, 1985, p. 109; quoted in C. A. Ferreira Martins, “Identidade Nacional e Estado no Projeto Modernista. Modernidade, Estado e Tradição,” Óculum, no. 2, September 1992, pp. 71-76 [author’s translation into French].

A. Candido, quoted in C. A. Ferreira Martins, “Identidade nacional e estado no projeto modernista. Modernidade, estado e tradição,” art. cited, p. 283 [author’s translation into French]. In his dissertation “Lúcio Costa…,” art. cit., A. Guerra also mentions the contributions of Martins and Candido (p. 120).

As reported by Péricles Eugênio da Silva Ramos, Correio Paulistano, 26 June 1949, quoted by A. Guerra, “Lúcio Costa,” art. cit., p. 131. This discovery of primitive Brazil, new both to Blaise Cendrars and the Brazilian Modernists who accompanied him, has been well described by Brito Broca (“Blaise Cendrars no Brasil, em 1924,” A Manhã, 4 May 1952; quoted in A. Guerra, “Lúcio Costa…,” art. cit., p. 122).

A. Guerra, “Lúcio Costa...,” art. cit., p. 123 [author’s translation into French]. “Pau-Brasil” refers to Oswald de Andrade’s “Manifesto Pau-Brasil,” Correio da Manhã, 18 March 1924.

José Lins do Rego, “L’homme et le paysage,” L’Architecture d’aujourd’hui, no. 42-43, August 1952, pp. 8-14.

L. Costa, “Imprévu et importance de la contribution des architectes brésiliens au développement actuel de l’architecture contemporaine,” L’Architecture d’aujourd’hui, no. 42-43, August 1952, pp. 4-7.

A. Guerra, “A construção de um campo historiográfico,” art. cit., pp. 11-22.

On principle, the present essay is based exclusively on non-European texts which are often unavailable in French or English.

The exhibition was held at the Instituto Tomie Ohtake, São Paulo, 14 June–1 August 2010, then at the Palácio das Artes, Belo Horizonte, 8 April–8 May 2011. See A. Guerra (ed.), Arquitetura brasileira. Viver na floresta, exh. cat., São Paulo, Instituto Tomie Ohtake, 2010.

A. Guerra, “Lúcio Costa, Gregóri Warchavchik e Roberto Burle Marx. Síntese entre arquitetura e natureza tropical,” Revista USP, no. 53, March–May 2002, pp. 18-31; cited in Textos fundamentais sobre história da arquitetura moderna brasileira, vol. II, pp. 299-325. For more information on this subject, see A. Guerra, “Lúcio Costa,” art. cit., 2002.

Klaxon, a magazine founded three months after the Semana de Arte Moderna [Modern Art Week] of 1922, a seminal event for Brazilian modernists. The first issue was reserved for the distinguished writer in order to leverage his renown.

A. Guerra (ed.), Arquitetura brasileira. Viver na floresta, op. cit., p. 23 [author’s translation into French].

As reported by Le Corbusier in “L’esprit de la Sud-Amérique,” an unpublished text by Le Corbusier presented for the first time in Portuguese in Margareth Campos da Silva Pereira, Romão Veriano da Silva Pereira, Cécilia Rodriguez dos Santos, Vasco Caldeira da Silva, Le Corbusier e o Brasil, São Paulo, Tessela/Projeto, 1987, p. 71. This text was later published in French Le Corbusier. Conférences de Rio. Le Corbusier au Brésil, éd. par Y. Tsiomis, Paris, Flammarion, 2006, p. 187.


168.00 exposição
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original: português

others: français english



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