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FELIPE CALDERÓN, Andrés. Architectural Zeitgeist in Latin America. And its architecture of gravity. Arquitextos, São Paulo, year 17, n. 196.08, Vitruvius, sep. 2016 <>.

In an inspiring address to the House of Commons on a bombarded London during WWI Winston Churchill famously proclaimed that "we shape our buildings; thereafter they shape us" (1). Churchill’s statement speaks to an aspect of architecture that has been an historical object of discussion, the idea of buildings as cultural objects, expressing the cultural values of a society. Theorist, Howard Davis expanded on this idea in his book The Culture of Building. There, Davis expressed that "the idea of the culture of building represent a view of the social process that results in the form of the built world".(2). Davis argued that the process of building was not the result of individual endeavor, but rather a "social processes that vary in systematic ways from place to place and over time" (3). This is perhaps the most accurate way of looking at the product of Latin American Architecture, observed through a kaleidoscope of culture and time. A description I will maintain throughout this text.

At this point it is necessary to establish what it is meant when discussing a Latin American context. Understanding the complexity of the term as it involves a variety of cultural, geographical, economic and linguistic components, this text uses the most comprehended description of Latin America as the region south of the border separating United States and Mexico and including the Caribbean Islands.

Casa Abu & Font, Solano Benitez architect
Solano Benitez

From this perspective, one can appreciate the product of Latin American Architecture which is currently experiencing one of its most prolific moments, both in theory and built-form. This moment, which started at the onset of the 1990’s, is characterized by the collective discussion and cross-fertilization of ideas in Architecture empowered by the embracement of the technological, social, philosophical and economic conditions surrounding the practice of Architecture in Latin America.

This creative moment in Latin American Architecture, is comparable to the boom of the Modern Latin American Literature of the 1950’s and 1960’s of which Gabriel García Marquez, Julio Cortazar and Mario Vargas Llosa made part. The comparison with this Latin American Literary movement lies not only on the connection with its Latin American audience, but on the discussion of regional issues from local perspectives, and the open and uncompromised exchange of ideas; a characteristic that differs from the insular conditions of previous creative moments in Latin American Architecture. For example, during another fruitful period of Latin American Architecture in the 1960’s, iconic Architects Eladio Dieste (Uruguay) and Rogelio Salmona (Colombia,) despite having similar approaches to architecture did not have a meaningful relationship motivating conversation and the exchange of ideas. This insularity was in part due to the lack of forums for this exchange, but most prominently due to a historical Latin American tendency to look abroad for theoretical and practical models, as Fernando Lara and Luis Carranza described it, according to this historiography "different Latin American regions have always been islands, insulated from each other and intellectually aiming for Paris or New York" (4).

Nevertheless, technological developments, and a critical and introspective view of architectural production, as well as a greater social interconnection emerging from a globalized economy have facilitated the development of a spirited "movement" in Latin American Architecture which aims to the discussion of ideas in Architecture as observed from the local perspective of Latin American Architects.

What Zeitgeist?

The 1990’s was an important decade for the development of the Latin American region. As the global market model continued to direct the way of economic growth, many Latin American countries began to take part on this development. Trade agreements like Nafta (North American Free Trade Agreement) and Mercosur (Common Markets of South America) contributed to the development of Latin American economies. Most importantly, these agreements fomented stronger connection between Latin American countries, as Lara and Carranza pointed out, MERCOSUR created "economic and intellectual exchanges between neighboring countries while at the same time facilitating travel" (5). As architects from Mexico began to periodically travel to Colombia and Argentinean architects began to teach at Universities in Brazil, a road began to be paved for the connection of architectural though in the Latin American region.

This connection created a fertile ground for the cultivation of important ideas in Architecture and its Latin American context, challenging the Euro-Saxon power model which established a frame of view and interpretation of the Latin American Architectural product, an idea sociologist Pierre Bourdieu referred to as "field of cultural production" (6). This framework normalized the ideas of "Critical Regionalism" developed by Alexander Tzonis and Liane Lefaivre as a point of departure when analyzing the work developed in the local context of the region.

Echoing the opinions on "Critical Regionalism" by critics such as Keith Eggener and Architect Felipe Hernandez, this Zeitgeist has skewed the frame of view on which the work and ideas of contemporary Latin American Architects are observed and understood; as the product of a Latin American field of creative production, rather than as an example of a "regional" product of Modernism measured by Eurocentric standards of "regionalism". Through this revised view of "Critical Regionalism" the product of Latin American Architecture appears less as a manifestation of modern models in local contexts and more as an embodiment of modern ideas within building cultures.

Architecture of Gravity

Quincho, Rafael Iglesia
Photo Gustavo Frittegotto

Consequently, this Latin American Zeitgeist in Architecture has resulted in what Marina Waisman Called an "Architecture of Divergence", adducing to the idea of an architecture that "departs from its own familiar territory in search of new courses of action…" (7) This text presents the work of three remarkable Latin American Architects, three major voices of this movement who have embodied an "Architecture of Divergence": Solano Benitez, Angelo Bucci and Rafael Iglesia.  The work of these architects evidence the heterogeneity of the Latin American context, influenced by their building culture and their individual architectural preoccupations. To better appreciate this heterogeneity it is indispensable to bring the work together around a common element, a connecting thread that allows a better understanding of the differing approaches to architecture; an element that affects each work equally but offer no geographical, climatic of cultural influence; a basic and fundamental element in architecture: Gravity.

As Carranza and Lara remind us, "gravity has always been a fundamental component of architecture…thus becoming an important issue to struggle with". In Spanish and Portuguese gravity also means a sense of urgency, significance and intensity, important factors of the Latin American building culture.

However, in the discussion on gravity architecture develops as the building response to its effect; the harnessing of the force that allows buildings to rise but also fall. 

This text analyzes the architecture of Benitez, Bucci and Iglesia in terms of the systems that allow their buildings to defy the action of gravity, since it is in this re-action where the most important element of architecture lies: structure. 

Robert McCarter and Juhani Palasmaa wrote on their basic and insightful book Understanding Architecture that "the entire history of architecture can be interpreted as the evolution of new structural materials and ideas of enclosing and spanning space" (8). This historiography is linked to the share knowledge developed within local contexts, the culture of building Davis spoke about, which is manifested throughout the Latin American Architectural production.

The relationship between the structural component of a building and its rational assemblage of parts creates an order, a certain syntax that communicates an architectural expression. Thus, as August Perret exclaimed, structures become "the mother tongue of Architecture", the simplest way a building expresses itself. Moreover, this Structural language as Kenneth Frampton discusses in his Studies in Tectonic Culture, is differentiated by cultural tectonic expressions informed by ontological and representative characteristics, as well as topographic and technological conditions. These characteristics and the capacity of convey a haptic and phenomenological message give Structure a channel for a cultural and poetical expression in the work. This concepts establish a framework for the analysis of the work by Solano Benitez, Angelo Bucci and Rafael Iglesia. The work from these Latin American Architects convey very intriguing and poetic tectonic conditions which are linked to each one’s specific building culture. Here, I present two pieces of work from each architect noting their structural approach, and their interpretations and use of gravity. These works are representative examples of the culture of building in Latin America, product of this Zeitgeist in Architecture. A truly architecture of gravity.

Solano Benitez and the Bradth of brick

Paraguay offers an important example of a multicultural society in which modernity and tradition coexist simultaneously. The country is one of few bilingual nations in Latin America, recognizing Guaraní as a national language. This multiethnic heritage permeates through all conditions of life in Paraguay. This is the context in which Solano Benitez and his Gabinete de Arquitectura work.

Benitez, a graduate from the National University of Asuncion (FAUNA) is a strong voice in the discourse of architecture in Latin America. The architect has become notorious for his use of brick, generating comparison with iconic Latin American Architects Eladio Dieste and Rogelio Salmona. However, in Benitez’s case, the use of brick and cement has a closer relationship with the economic conditions of the building environment in Paraguay rather than the cultural richness attached to the material. Brick and cement are the most inexpensive materials for construction and hence the most used. 

What sets Benitez apart, however, is his willingness for experimentation which takes the properties of brick to the fullest of its capabilities. The impetus of this experimentation comes from the particular conditions of Paraguayan building culture. Benitez explained "we have a reputation [in Paraguay] for doing what we do not know how to do" (9) a pragmatism that involves the challenge of rules and norms –most of Benitez’s buildings would not have been possible in North America because of building codes and regulations. The relative Laisse-faire building regulation of Paraguay allowed Benitez certain freedom to experiment and innovate, which he has done practically on every building his Gabinete de Arquitectura designed.

Casa Abu & Font

Casa Abu & Font, Solano Benitez
Photo Enrico Cano

Benitez’s innovative approach is present in the house the architect designed for his mother, her siblings and their family. The house, with a built are of 750m2(8000 ft2approx.) sits in a quiet neighborhood of Asuncion, Paraguay. The house develops on two levels. On the ground level, a main room spreads the length of the house in an open floor plan. The flexible space created allows for the room to be used in a myriad of ways and provides the necessary space to hold large family gatherings. Large hanging door operated by pulleys sly open the room to the exterior patios, ventilating the house and making house and site as one. A side from the large room, this level contains service areas and the courtyards providing nature relief. The private spaces are located on the second level and the basement which are the best locations for dealing with the intense Paraguayan heat.

The house uses brick in multiple ways, on the floors, walls, ceilings and as a screen wall hiding the circulation ramp leading to the second level. However, it is Benitez use of brick in response to the forces of gravity what makes this house particularly interesting, not only for the ingenuity and resourcefulness of the construction but because of the simple yet amusing tectonic language.

Diagram Casa Abu & Font, Solano Benitez
Felipe Calderon

In order to achieve the open plan on the ground level, Benitez uses brick in a very peculiar manner. The structure is held on four columns at the corners of the house, two Vierindheel girders span the length of the house with a series of transversal beams as secondary structural elements. The systems is completed by a ceramic slab which hangs from the longitudinal girders working in tension to alleviate the structural loads. With this structural organization Benitez ingeniously re-establishes the role of brick from a compressive element, to one providing tension to the system in order to bring balance to the structure.

The construction process speaks to Benitez’s intuitive approach to structure as well as the local building knowledge. For the ceramic slab, bricks were tilted to provide them with the highest moment of inertia while reducing the amount of material used; a designed decision that ingeniously employed the structural qualities of brick. In order to maintain the bricks in place, a bed of sand was place over the wood-form which required the use of a mix with a high content of water to compensate for the amount of water absorbed by the sand. Thus, as innovative as it was, the process of construction was also very artisanal, relying on craftsmanship and the local building knowledge to achieve the desired goals.

Casa Abu&Font reflects not only the technical and cultural building knowledge but the poetic sensibility of Solano Benitez. The curved slab forms a cocoon that literally hovers over the family, perhaps a metaphor for protection which was a principal function driving the conceptual design of the house, as Benitez expressed, "to build in order to protect: a house against the outdoor elements—the sun and the rain, elements that intensify apathy, fear and loneliness—a house as a tool for resistance where life nests afresh" (10).

Children’s Rehabilitation Center

Teletón, Asuncion, Paraguay, Solano Benitez architect
Photo Leonardo Finotti

Teletón (Paraguay) is an institution that has provided therapeutic attention to underprivileged children suffering from neuro-muscular conditions. However, the institution has been historically mismanaged, being object of corruption and neglect. In an ironic sense, the rehabilitation center needed to be rehabilitated.

Money collected from an annual fundraising event constitutes the only source of funds for the institution operation. With money from one of these fundraisers the directives decided to renovate their run-down installations in the city of Lambaré.

Considering the economic restrictions of the project, Benitez once more searched for the most affordable design and efficient constructive process for the Children’s Rehabilitation Center. Yet, in the simple and vernacular process, Solano envisioned a tectonic language that conveys a different appreciation of the local building culture.

The extent of the renovation included the demolition of derelict buildings such as the gym and part of the clinic and the expansion of an area destined for hydrotherapy constructed on 140 m2(~1500 ft2.) As necessary for the budgetary constrictions of the project, Benitez had to think again on the most effective and efficient solution for the program using the local building culture knowledge.

Thus, Benitez maximized the re-use of materials from the demolished buildings and from other buildings being renovated in the area. These materials included brick from the gym and clinic, and tempered-glass doors donated from a nearby bank in renovation.

Pieces of the recycled brick come to create a curved shading structure on the outdoor area of the building, large ceramic pyramids forming the roof and concealing a water reservoirs, and a vaulted ceiling formed by inventive construction technique.

Diagram Teletón, Asuncion, Paraguay, Solano Benitez architect
Felipe Calderon

In the development of this vaulted passage, Benitez utilized basic knowledge of architecture, adapted to the situational conditions of the project. Thus, the vaulted is a structured constructed on the principles of roman vaults in which brick is used as sole material with a multifunctional role. The complete pieces of refurbished brick form the nerves of the vault adding structural re-enforcement to the structure. On the other hand, smaller pieces of broken brick were use as aggregate in the concrete membrane filling the space between the nerves.

Teletón, Asuncion, Paraguay, Solano Benitez architect
Photo Leonardo Finotti

From the perspective of local traditions and intellectual expression—In Davis’ discussion of Pevsner differentiation between a building and a piece of architecture(11) — this building quite literally mixes the simple, functional building culture of a bicycle shed with the architectural impressiveness of the Lincoln Cathedral.

Angelo Bucci expresses gravity

Formed in the shadow of the Paulista School, Angelo Bucci is and architect that thinks and works in terms of relationships, spaces and scales. Bucci often recalls famous Brazilian Modernist Villanova Artigas’ motto, "Build a house like a city and a city like a house". Bucci’s architecture is concerned with structural conditions, materiality and the experience of the dweller as fundamental parts in the solution of its design problems.

Bucci is part of a generation of architects that were educated during an important moment in Brazilian Architectural theory. Bucci has mention that, although he was never under the tutelage of Villanova Artigas, he feels his architectural theories have greatly influence his architectural thought. Bucci said "Vilanova Artigas was a remarkable professor and one of the most important Brazilian architects. Although I never had him as a professor, after years of attending classes in [the building designed by him,] I ended up feeling that, through it, he was one of my most important teachers" (12).

Villanova Artigas is among other architects such as Paulo Mendes da Rocha, Oscar Niemeyer and Affonso Eduardo Reidy from a very prominent generation of thought and practice in Brazil. A generation that developed in the cultural milieu of the Brazilian Antropofagia movement (13) of the 1920’s, which devoured the precepts of modern theory, processing them through an individual intellectual practice based on each architect’s culture of building, and regurgitating a transcultural building product.

Most importantly, Bucci’s architecture, as expression of Brazilian Modernism, is harmoniously attuned with the climate and the living traditions of its locality. This conditions are exemplary in the Houses he has designed. 

Casa Ribeirão Preto

Casa Ribeirão Preto, SPBR architects
Photo Nelson Kon

In this residential project, Architect Angelo Bucci neatly displays his tectonic prowess expressed on an antropofagista language. Bucci brings forth in the structural and material language of the house the influence of the Paulista School, founded on the lessons of Brutalist modern models, yet processed through his personal, historical and social environment.

The tectonic language expressed with reinforced concrete responding to the climatic and social character of the place.  The house sits on the a narrow lot of 15m by 30m (~50ft by 98ft) in a compact urban context—the lot is situated in the middle of the block. This created a necessity to elevate the architecture to liberate it from its situational constrictive conditions.

Diagram Casa Ribeirão Preto, SPBR architects
Felipe Calderon

The house is raised over pillars which receive a couple of inverted girders from which the volume of the house is suspended. The house seems to levitate over the common spaces of the garden and the pool, which were an important element of the concept maximizing the use of space and its relation with the garden areas allowing for great relationship of built and open space.

Casa Ribeirão Preto, SPBR architects
Photo Nelson Kon

The massiveness of the concrete is contrasted with the lightness of the structures. Bucci finds in this contrast and opportunity to express gravity and to create a different way of experience it. Bucci places a water tank at the entrance of the house; the tank, hovering on the visitor’s head. Architect and friend, Jose Maria Saez explained on the artistic qualities of Bucci’s approach, "Angelo is an artist and thinks like an artist". The architect makes us walk underneath the tank and as we do, he is making us experience gravity in a visceral way, and thus think about it differently as it is impossible not to feel the weight of gravity above us.

However, it is Bucci’s tectonic syntax what ultimately communicates the architect’s message of structural simplicity. 

Weekend House in Sao Paulo

Weekend House in Sao Paulo, SPBR architects
Photo Nelson Kon

The program for this house is a particular expression of the building culture in which Bucci works. Sao Paulo is one of the largest metropolis of Latin America with about 20 million inhabitants. Traffic congestion is a common effect of this large population, exacerbated by an insufficient transportation infrastructure. Even on weekends, traffic congestion is usual due to the thousands of people coming to the beach seeking a respite from the workweek. A least desired stressful situation. As a unusual solution the clients had the idea of a weekend house set in a lot they owned in an urban neighborhood. 

Thus, the programs for the house include a pool, gardens and areas for gatherings. Bucci commented that in the development of the concept for the house, the idea of a hovering pool came to mind to change the characteristics of the spaces since the lot was located in between two tall buildings on each side, creating a problem for the access of light to the pool and of views from it. 

The house follows a similar concept which Bucci established in the Casa Ribeirao Preto. However, Bucci’s organization of the tectonic language conveys a different structural message. Again, expressed through a Breton a Brut medium of the Paulista school, Bucci creates structural elements inventively, playing with gravity as he organized the tectonic elements of the structure.

Diagram Weekend House in Sao Paulo, SPBR architects
Felipe Calderon

Bucci makes the commonly used areas such as the pool and the solarium levitate over the ground of level. The volumes of these areas are paralleled, their weights acting reciprocally as the pool becomes the counter-weight of the solarium. Bucci is again expressing gravity, making us see it in different way, as mass looming over our heads.

Thus, Bucci’s message remains the same Gravity as an equalizer, bringing the system to equilibrium.

This tectonic discussion is just one of many, taking place in the Latin America context. A fundamental reason for the development of this Zeitgeist.

Weekend House in Sao Paulo, SPBR architects
Photo Nelson Kon

Rafael Iglesia: the vision of a new architecture

Every movement has representative voices. In this contemporary Latin American Zeitgeist, Rafael Iglesia is one of them.

Born in Concordia on October 2, 1952. Iglesia obtained his architectural degree from the Faculty of Architecture, Planning and Design at the Universidad Nacional de Rosario in Argentina. Together with Marcelo Villafañe and Gerardo Caballero, Iglesia formed the architectural collective Grupo R, interested in the exchange of theoretical ideas and the formation of spaces to foment discussion.

Iglesia’s architecture is characterized by the ingenious and provocative use of structural elements which defy normative standards. The architect dwells between the rational and the poetic. Phenomenology and the emphasis on experience are a common trait in Iglesia’s work.

However, to define Iglesias theory is more complicated. Iglesia is a thinker, a constant figure in the current architectural theory discussion.

To Iglesia, architectural theory has come to a place of standstill, a plateau of intellectual production. In the architect’s view "last century’s model is depleted and there is nothing that remains, nothing that goes beyond the second line of the modern movement" (14). However, the architect optimistically affirms that "architecture has not given all it has to give" encouraging a development of architectural thought as a way out of the theoretical block. In Iglesia’s view it is necessary to search on the lessons of the past with a critical eye, looking for something new that allow us to move forward. Faithfully, Iglesia’s work is an expression of this critical thought. 


Quincho, Rafael Iglesia
Photo Gustavo Frittegotto

To examine the fundamental elements of architecture, one must reduce it to its minimal expression, what Jose Quintanilla called a "minimum print" (15).

Quinchos are a simple structures used for asados, social spaces for barbeques. All they require is a sheltered space to protect from the weather. It is this structure where Iglesia describes his critical approach to architecture using gravity as main element.

In Quincho Gallo, for example, Iglesia develops a system in which elements are held together only by weight and by the forces generated in this interaction. The tectonic experiment is for Iglesia a mental exercise in which he wants to involve us. As the architect claims, "I like people to experience the work and to be confused" Iglesia continues "I like them to ask themselves, how is the structure working?"(16)

Diagram Quincho, Rafael Iglesia
Felipe Calderon

Thus, a wood plank can be cantilevered while holding in place between the compressed pieces of a wood screen receiving the weight of the roof slab. This condition can be appreciated on other works by the architect such as in the stair for Casa Grande in which the steps are held together by the friction generated by the wood pieces compressed by the weight of the roof slab.

In the quinchos, Iglesia is also expressing his critical view of our building past. The architect bring the basic concepts of the "original column" embodied in a tree truck that works as a column supporting the weight of the concrete slab, drawing from a historical tectonic language spoken by Villanova Artigas in Casa Elsa Berquo. 

The work of Iglesia in the quinchos is part of the architect’s design process through experimentation. The tectonic language developed in the quinchos, is expanded in other works of the architect, such as the pavilions for the Independence Park where Iglesia uses the same metaphorical ideas of the tree as the original column and of gravity as the force bringing everything together.

Edificio Altamira

Altamira, Rosario, Argentina, Rafael Iglesia architect
Photo Leonardo Finotti

While the work on the quinchos looked back to a tectonic genesis, in the Altamira Building Iglesia looks to the future. The building is located in a compact lot of 147m2(~1600ft2) in an urban neighborhood of Rosario, Argentina. The residential tower rises 12 levels above the ground with one apartment per floor, to maximize the habitable space. The program, as Iglesia identified, challenged the specificity of living standards in which a family residence must be divided in private units for the parents and for the children as well as service and social gathering areas. In Altamira, the program evolves in an open plan, a reaction to the social changes on the character of contemporary families. Iglesia admits that in the programming of the building he "intends to question the specificity of functions", involved in a changing family nucleus which in turn "impose other building ethics" (17).

However, in Altamira Iglesia is not only challenging the response of architecture to its social reality, the architect creates an architecture with a puzzling tectonic expression. Iglesia’s structural approach intends to challenge an architecture in which all components are defined and specified with particular roles and functions, which he describe in a Deleuzian way as pieces of chess (18).

Diagram Altamira, Rosario, Argentina, Rafael Iglesia architect
Felipe Calderon

Thus, Iglesia develops the structure as a system of beams as basic building unit, taking the form of structure, envelope and opening at the same time; its tectonic character and its role determined by its placement on space.

The design becomes a plastic expression in which the tectonic elements are arranged in a rational, yet surprising structural syntax. As a result, the composition shifts and turns beams, dissolving the materiality of the building and its structural message; once again making us think about the tectonics as we experience the space.

Altamira, Rosario, Argentina, Rafael Iglesia architect
Photo Gustavo Frittegotto

Altamira is Iglesias favorite building, as the architect expressed in Altamira "one can live the way one wants"(19) without spatial functional constrictions with freedom of arrangement, that is the living space of the future.


When Rafael Iglesia says that in Latin America we are geographical, not historical like in Europe, (20) I believe he is referring to the novelty of Latin American architectural thought which does not come from a historical context but from a social, economic and situational character of place. This text ventured to identify a shared architectural thought in Latin America rooted in the exchange of ideas coming from different geographical building process. In attempting to describe the theoretical character of this Latin American Zeitgeist, it is important to look at it not as a homogenized thought manifesto but as a collective, comparative and critical platform for the exchange of ideas coming from varying theoretical voices influenced by particular building cultures and intellectual interests. 

The heterogeneous condition of this Latin American Zeitgeist is clearly observed in the diverse building product of the region. A diversity generated from different tectonic languages and architectural theoretical positions present in the region.

In this text, the work of Angelo Bucci, Solano Benitez and Rafael Iglesia were presented as examples of a larger movement in Latin American Architecture. The building product from these architects reflect the Latin American Architectural context expressed from each architect’s theoretical perspective and their building culture. Acknowledging the differences of each architectural product, I discussed each work from the perspective of their tectonic expression, a fundamental and uncompromising element of architecture. From McCarter and Pallasmaa’s assertion that "meaningful architectural structures … arise from physical, material, cultural, functional, as well as mental causalities"(21), the work by Solano Benitez, Angelo Bucci and Rafael Iglesia turn the undisputable rationality of structure into metaphoric architectural expressions of gravity. 

Analyzing the rational organization and expressive composition of structural elements, each work presents a particular part of the relationship of structure and its building culture.

Solano Benitez, for example, works in a particular building culture where craft and local building knowledge are fundamental part of architectural production. Benitez architecture responds to the social and economic conditions of Paraguay, using cost efficient material such as brick, cement and recycled materials. The architect’s resourceful and pragmatic approach comes through in the tectonic expression of his buildings. Benitez’ tectonic language is the result of an intuitive experimental process which for the architect is a fundamental part of his building process. Benitez architectural and tectonic ideas are echoed on other Latin American Architects which search for architecture of resourcefulness, investigation and tectonic innovation. Examples are Daniel Bonilla’s work on The Porciúncula Chapel in Bogotá, Colombia and Alberto Mozó’s creative tectonic and material approach in an office building in Santiago, Chile.

Differently from Benitez’s brick predominance, Angelo Bucci’s architecture is expressed in a different medium, concrete. Bucci’s architectural theory, rooted in the Paulista School, involves an expressive structural language which the architect brings about in his work. Bucci’s composition of tectonic elements creates a playful and dynamic language, expressing gravity in poetic ways.

As representative of his generation, Bucci speaks with an atropofagista language; justly attending to the character of his building culture, and rigorously developing a particular tectonic language. Bucci’s buildings, however, are only one part of a larger tectonic discussion happening in Latin America including architects such as Mónica Bertolino (Argentina), José María Sáez Vaquero (Ecuador) and Alberto Kalach (México), to name a few.

Finally, the work of Rafael Iglesia is representative of the richly creative and intellectual milieu of Latin American Architecture. Iglesia’s oeuvre is a mental exercise that challenges understanding, questions established precepts and experiments with basic elements of architecture.

Iglesia likes to experiment and innovate, as the architect said "I like to do what I do not know how to do"(22) which as shown in this text provided for a very inquisitive and fresh expression of architecture that puzzles and intrigues. In the development of the architectural language of his buildings, Iglesia creates an organization of structural elements based on modern precepts of function and rationality. However, his building’s language is not a faithful expression of modern architecture. Iglesia often looks back in history with a critical eye, looking for lessons that could generate new solutions to "obsolete" architectural solutions. 

Kenneth Frampton writes that "the full tectonic potential of any building stems from its capacity to articulate both the poetic and the cognitive aspects of its substance" (23) in my opinion, the work of the current Latin American Zeitgeist displays a great tectonic potential particular to the region because, as Iglesia exclaims, "in Latin America we work with need" (24). A constant geographical and social condition in the work of Latin American Architects. In the analysis of these buildings as products of a re-established Latin American field of cultural production Churchill’s expression "we build or buildings, thereafter they build us" could be understood as the continuous, synergetic development of architecture and the context of its culture of building.

This discussion I hope brings up the influence of a Latin America Zeitgeist in Architecture which develops from a rich understanding of local building cultures and an ambitious intellectual investigation, fomented by strong channels of communication and a genuine desire to learn from each other.


This article is the third of a series about Latin American modern architecture, written by group LAMA (Latin American Modern Architecture) from University of Texas at Austin, under the coordination of Prof. Fernando Luiz Lara.

Speech at the House of Commons, 28 October 1943.

DAVIS, Howard. The Culture of Building. New York: Oxford University Press, Inc, 2006, p. 11.


LARA, Fernando; CARRANZA, Luis. Modern Architecture in Latin America: Art, Technology and Utopia. Austin: The University of Texas Press, 2014, p. 2.

Idem, ibidem, p. 3

BOURDIEU, Pierre. The Field of Cultural Production. Cambridge: Polity Press, 1993, p. 34.

WAISMAN, Marina. Introduction. In: TRIBE, Michael L.; BARCO, Diana. Latin American Architecture: Six Voices (Studies in Architecture and Culture). Texas A&M University Press, 2000, p. 18.

PALLASMAA, Juhani; MCCARTER, Robert. Understanding Architecture. New York: Phaidon Press , 2012, p. 117.

CENTER 16: LATITUDES. Latitudes: Architecture of the Americas. Austin: Center for American Architecture and Design. Austin, Barbara Hoidn, 2012, p. 45.

BENITEZ, Solano. This House. Paraguay, O'Neil Ford Duograph Series, 2013, p. 35.

DAVIS, Howard. The Culture of Building. New York: Oxford University Press, Inc, 2006, p. 8.

CENTER 16: LATITUDES. Op. cit., p. 33.

This movement was established on the Oscar de Andrade’s “Cannibalist Manifesto” which declared Brazil's history of "cannibalizing" other cultures is its greatest strength, while playing on the modernists' primitivist interest in cannibalism as an alleged tribal rite.

LARA, Fernando; CARRANZA, Luis. Op. cit., p. 348.

QUINTANILLA, Jose. Entre la Gravedad y la Gracia. Skfandra, n5. Skfandra, n.d., p. 4.

IGLESIA, Rafael. AD Entrevistas: Rafael Iglesia ArchDaily. 20 Aril 2015.

QUINTANILLA, Jose. Entre la gravedad y la gracia. Skfandra, n. 5, Skfandra, n.d., p. 12.

Idem, ibidem.

IGLESIA, Rafael. Entrevista a Rafael Iglesia en la gira Americano del Sud ARQ.clarin, 2013.

IGLESIA, Rafael. AD Entrevistas: Rafael Iglesia ArchDaily. 20 April 2015.

PALLASMAA, Juhani; MCCARTER, Robert. Op. cit.

IGLESIA, Rafael. Entrevista a Rafael Iglesia en la gira Americano del Sud ARQ.clarin. 2013.

FRAMPTON, Kenneth. Studies in Tectonic Culture. London: The MIT Press, 1995, p.26

IGLESIA, Rafael. Entrevista a Rafael Iglesia en la gira Americano del Sud ARQ.clarin. 2013.

About the author

Andrés Felipe Calderón is a graduate from the University of Texas where he obtained a professional degree in Urban Studies and a Master of Architecture degree. He has worked in many publications regarding Latinamerican Architecture and Urbanism. He works and lives in New York City.


196.08 critic
how to quote


original: english



196.00 história

O porto do Rio de Janeiro no contexto das reformas urbanas de fin du siècle (1850-1906)

Paulo Cesar dos Reis

196.01 história

Utopia e produção arquitetônica

Archigram, uma nova forma de teoria

Victor Borges and Tarcísio da Silva Cyrino

196.02 restauro

Casa Bonomi

Atemporalidade arquitetônica

Fábio Chamon Melo

196.03 cinema

De outros cinemas

Ellen de Medeiros Nunes

196.04 urbanismo

Habitação social como urbanismo

Proposta pedagógica para um mestrado profissional em desenho urbano

Zeca Brandão

196.05 tipologia

Niemeyer e o modelo do semi-duplex

Uma inovadora proposta habitacional na década dos cinquentas

Alejandro Pérez-Duarte Fernández and Talita Silvia Souza

196.06 reciclagem

Preexistência industrial-ferroviária à margem de Ouro Preto

Da fábrica de tecidos ao museu de Paulo Mendes da Rocha

Bruno Tropia Caldas

196.07 urbanismo

Desenho ambiental e forma urbana

O caso do bairro de Riverside

Evy Hannes


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