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Brazilian Brutalism

April 25, 2018 \ Studio
by Raphael Selby

Rare scale, monumentality, treatment of the ground, and sheer mass of concrete is emblematic of Brazilian Brutalism in its confidence and contribution to Brazilian national identity.

Brazilian Brutalism

Our colleague Raphael Selby has a particular interest in Brazilian Brutalism, inspired by travels to the country in his childhood and developed through research during his Masters degree at Newcastle University, supervised by Dr. Stephen Parnell.

The image of Brazilian Modernism internationally is dominated by a particular style and individual – the sinuous interpretation of the International Style popularised by Oscar Niemeyer. However, in parallel to Niemeyer, a group of architects in São Paulo began and continue to make internationally significant buildings in the brutalist style. Both of these styles have a great significance in Brazil as they formed part of the effort to forge a new post-colonial identity for the country and express confidence on a world stage.

Brutalism was, of course, a significant architectural style in the UK as well, used for the en-mass construction of new housing, shopping centres and government buildings in the wake of the Second World War. As well as mass building, the style had sufficient cultural cache that it was also used for high-value new institutions, such as the National Theatre. There are many similarities between British and Brazilian Brutalism, such as the expression of material honesty, the utilisation of new technology, and the ethical dimension of building an architecture for all. However, there are also significant differences, such as the way the buildings meet the ground, treat the ground plane, and the relationship between inside and outside space.

 

“This gives Brazilian Brutalism a fluidity not present in the UK, and allows the city to extend into the building and vice versa, rooting the buildings in their place and permitting the free movement of people. ”

By virtue of the climate of the UK, its brutalist architecture tends to have a clearly defined relationship between inside and outside, with sealed building envelopes that often carry down to ground level. This generally isn’t the case with brutalist buildings in Brazil, where the building envelope is either highly recessed from the building edge at ground level or doesn’t exist at all. This gives Brazilian Brutalism a fluidity not present in the UK, and allows the city to extend into the building and vice versa, rooting the buildings in their place and permitting the free movement of people. In some cases, such as the Faculty of Architecture and Urbanism at the University of São Paulo (1961-69), the blurring of inside and outside allows the ground plane to come into the building and continue up through it, as a series of city-scale ramps rising through the section.

Perhaps by virtue of the role it has played in creating a new identity for Brazil, Brutalism in the country has a heroic quality which is generally more prominent than in other locations. This is typified by Lina Bo Bardi’s São Paulo Museum of Art (1957-68), where the museum galleries, the size of a full city block, are held aloft from the street by four massive concrete pillars, a move which returns the street level back to the public realm, with the other two levels submerged below the ground plane. This rare scale, monumentality, treatment of the ground, and sheer mass of concrete is emblematic of Brazilian Brutalism in its confidence, contribution to Brazilian national identity, and dialogue with the city.

It is through the essential qualities of Brazilian Brutalism that the architecture becomes more than just a sculpture or a space, but something which creates a dialogue with the city and its users.

Permutations

April 9, 2018 \ Studio
by Finbarr O’Dempsey

Permutations takes a haptic attitude towards acoustics, leaving space for the host venues of this touring installation to bring their own influence on both the acoustic and architectural impressions.

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