As part of this year’s ‘Fuori Salone’ in Milan, the ‘relics’ of the Brazilian Modernism were displayed in a church near the city’s Porta Romana: rare pieces by the so-called ‘Tropical Modernists’ of the 1950s, 60s and 70s. The construction of Brasilia and the visionary ideas of architects Oscar Niemeyer and Lucio Costa laid the path for ‘Brazilian Modernism’, which is almost unknown in Europe.
When Le Corbusier first visited Rio de Janeiro in 1929, he found Brazil fascinating, but rural and provincial. Although he gave a few lectures, these were reserved for a small, highly educated circle that was able to follow his talks in French. Lucio Costa and Oscar Niemeyer were among these few; they would later come to define Brazilian Modernism.
It was also they who made a stunning entrance with the Brazilian Pavilion for the 1939 New York World’s Fair. This was followed in 1943 by the ‘Brazil Builds’ exhibition at MOMA, which in turn was followed by the touring exhibition in Europe of the same name, which brought developments in Brazil to the attention of architects from the northern hemisphere.
The construction of planned city Brasilia in the 1950s was the high point of Brazilian Modernism: the new town, or rather new capital, can still be considered as the largest building project of all time. But many other well-known and lesser-known modernists worked alongside the internationally renowned architects Costa and Niemeyer, whose work we examine here.