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my city ISSN 1982-9922


Carlos Eduardo Comas, crítico e historiador de arquitetura, comenta a desventura do Palácio Capanema, prestes a ser vendido pelo governo federal, e o compara em importância simbólica ao Centro Pompidou em Paris.

Carlos Eduardo Comas, critic and historian of architecture, comments on the misadventure of the Capanema Palace, about to be sold by the federal government, and compares it in symbolic importance to the Pompidou Center in Paris.

how to quote

COMAS, Carlos Eduardo. Equipments, documents, monuments, misgovernment. The misadventure of the Palacio Capanema. Minha Cidade, São Paulo, year 22, n. 253.10, Vitruvius, aug. 2021 <>.

Ministry of Education and Health, Rio de Janeiro RJ Brasil, 1936-1945. Architects Lúcio Costa, Oscar Niemeyer, Affonso Eduardo Reidy, Jorge Moreira, Carlos Leão and Ernani Vasconcellos
Foto/Photo Nelson Kon

The Pompidou Center will close for restoration, announces the press. Is the French government going to put it up for sale at a reduced price? Well, it seems not. The Pompidou Center is worth its weight in gold. It is a living equipment, with a museum, cinematheque, exhibition gallery, restaurant, shop, square in front. And of course, it is a top tourist attraction, for natives and foreigners. There are people who don't even go in but use the escalator to enjoy the view.

Our Capanema Palace, formerly the Ministry of Education, Health and Culture, is also a living equipment, although currently empty for restoration. It has an exhibition gallery, auditorium, a noble floor with integrated frescoes and murals, libraries, the Heritage School of Iphan – the Brazilian Nation School, restaurant, shop and square-with-pilotis that is a public shortcut and crossroads. You don't need to enter the building to enjoy Portinari's tile murals, Bruno Giorgi's sculpture or Portinari's gardens. Oh, and what operated there is paying rent for the moment.

The Pompidou Center is also a document, valued by the French Government as a testimony to the 1970s in which it was designed, built, and began to operate. A metallic machine designed by English architects and built by German engineers, it speaks of a certain state of building technology, when building installations mattered as much or more than the resistant structure, and the absence of internal columns reflected the architectural aspiration to unlimited functional flexibility and could be taken as the counterpart of the "it is forbidden to forbid" that the demonstrations of May 1968 had as their motto.

Built between 1936 and 45, in part contemporary with a devastating Second World War, our Ministry also has the feel of a toy to set up, more like a wooden block (the proto-Lego) than perforated metal parts (the Meccano type). The state-of-the-art structure is in reinforced concrete and uses cantilevered mushroom slabs that incorporate cables and ducts, anticipating today's raised floors. The pillars are spaced enough to allow a free plan with partitions. The light construction is a pioneering example of a tall building with a glazed body protected by brise-soleil. Le Corbusier, who had popularized the expression brise-soleil, took the idea from the Muslim mashrabyia and until then had only sketched it out on paper. The slack ceilings combine with the sash windows to allow effective cross ventilation over the partition walls. The Ministry is original, insofar as being original is to do better what others have done well. It's cunning too in its learning from the past. And it is opportune, the voice of a generation that, tired of life and architecture to the tune of a patriotic speech, demanded that life and architecture be carried on to the tune of a civilized conversation. Octogenarian, the Ministry documents hope despite everything.

It can be said that there would be no Pompidou Center without the Ministry, although the presence of Oscar Niemeyer on the jury of the competition for the former could be just an accident. But the connection between them is not limited to the condition of equipment and document. Both are intentional monuments, memorable landmarks celebrating, among many things, the State as a public and common thing, an institution that ensures the sovereignty of a territory and promotes its arts and crafts, techniques, and sciences - cooperating for the creation of a human world lasting longer that the life of an individual, as opposed to the mutability of the natural world as to the private sphere of family intimacy. From a symbolic point of view, selling the Ministry or the Pompidou Center amounts to mutilating them in essence, and attacking the citizenship that gave birth to them. Heritage of the nation, even the transfer of its title to a province or city would be experienced as degradation. The French government knows this very well and it doesn't even think of either selling the Pompidou Center or demoting it to a departmental body.

Macron may be right-wing, but he is not stupid.


NE 1 – the document “Heritage under siege in Brazil – the Bolsonaro Government announced the auction sale of the Palácio Capanema in Rio, a modern architecture icon that was formerly the Ministry of Education building”, written by Docomomo Internacional and Docomomo Brasil, can be read and signed in link <>.

NE 2 – about the topic, see also:

CAU/BR, Conselho de Arquitetura e Urbanismo do Brasil; et. al. “O MEC não pode ser vendido!”. Manifesto contra ameaça de venda do Palácio Capanema. Drops, São Paulo, ano 21, n. 167.06, Vitruvius, ago. 2021 <>.

CURTIS, William J. R. The destruction of memory. Against the privatisation of a key historical and civic monument. Minha Cidade, São Paulo, year 21, n. 253.07, Vitruvius, aug. 2021 <>.

FRAMPTON, Kenneth. Letter from Kenneth Frampton to Ana Tostões and Renato Gama-Rosa Costa, presidents of Doco. Capanema Palace at risk. Minha Cidade, São Paulo, year 21, n. 253.06, Vitruvius, aug. 2021 <>.

LIERNUR, Jorge Francisco. Advertencia para autoridades sin memoria y sin criterio. El Palacio Capanema no es una mercancía. Minha Cidade, São Paulo, año 21, n. 253.08, Vitruvius, ago. 2021 <>.

MONTANER, Josep Maria. A venda do Palácio Capanema é um ultraje e uma insensatez. Carta aos arquitetos Carlos Eduardo Comas e Abilio Guerra. Minha Cidade, São Paulo, ano 21, n. 253.09, Vitruvius, ago. 2021 <>.

ROLNIK, Raquel. Feirão de um sonho de país. Palácio Capanema à venda. Minha Cidade, São Paulo, ano 21, n. 253.03, Vitruvius, ago. 2021 <>.

TOSTÕES, Ana; COSTA, Renato da Gama-Rosa; INTERNATIONAL, Docomomo; BRASIL, Docomomo. Heritage under siege in Brazil. Capanema Palace for sale. Minha Cidade, São Paulo, year 21, n. 253.04, Vitruvius, aug. 2021 <>.

about the author

Carlos Eduardo Comas is an architect and professor emeritus at UFRGS.


253.10 Rio de Janeiro
how to quote


original: português

outros: english



253.01 São Paulo


Uma praça nova assombrada pela velha pobreza

Celso Aparecido Sampaio

253.02 São Paulo

Cinemateca Brasileira

O fascínio do fracasso

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253.03 Rio de Janeiro

MES à venda

Palácio Capanema à venda

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253.04 Rio de Janeiro

Patrimônio sob cerco no Brasil

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Ana Tostões, Renato da Gama-Rosa Costa, Docomomo International and Docomomo Brasil

253.05 São Paulo

Carta aberta sobre o Arquivo Histórico de São Paulo

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253.06 Rio de Janeiro

Carta de Kenneth Frampton a Ana Tostões e Renato Gama-Rosa Costa, presidentes do Docomomo International e Brasil

Palácio Capanema em risco

Kenneth Frampton

253.07 Rio de Janeiro

A destruição da memória

Contra a privatização de um importante monumento histórico e cívico

William J. R. Curtis

253.08 Rio de Janeiro

Lembrete para autoridades sem memória, e sem juízo

O Palácio Capanema não é mercadoria

Jorge Francisco Liernur

253.09 Rio de Janeiro

A venda do Palácio Capanema é um ultraje e uma insensatez

Carta aos arquitetos Carlos Eduardo Comas e Abilio Guerra

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253.11 Rio de Janeiro

Oportunidade perdida (mais uma...)

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253.12 Rio de Janeiro

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