An Architect’s Journey to Brazil

  • 15 Nov 2013
  • by
  • Misc
Affonso Eduardo Reidy, Pedregulho Housing (1950-52). Image © John Hartmann

When I was student in New York City, I would often spend hours thumbing through the titles of books at the Strand Bookstore.  One day I came across Latin American Architecture Since 1945. The black and white book, written by Henry-Russell Hitchcock in 1955, showed a world of precise modernism. The buildings, situated in a tropical climate, set atop pilotis with gardens flowing in and under them, with brise soleils filtering the strong equatorial light, were perfect. I often would stare into the pages and attempt to create similar projects on my drafting board.

Fifteen years later, on a journey to , I sought out the projects that were indelibly written into my memory.  I expected, or hoped, to find them as they were on the pages. But what I found instead are buildings that are used and worn, showing age like the yellowing pages of the book itself. Despite this, the buildings were very much alive. Children were kicking a ball around in the housing bar and patients were still healing in Neimeyer’s hospital. These projects were not the crisp sun drenched modernism of my imagination, but they exceeded my expectation with an unexpected vibrance.

Latin American Architecture Since 1945 by Henry-Russell Hitchcock. Image © John Hartmann
Latin American Architecture Since 1945 by Henry-Russell Hitchcock. Image © John Hartmann

Affonso Eduardo Reidy, Pedregulho Housing (1950-52)

Affonso Eduardo Reidy, Pedregulho Housing (1950-52). Image © John Hartmann
Affonso Eduardo Reidy, Pedregulho Housing (1950-52). Image © John Hartmann
Affonso Eduardo Reidy, Pedregulho Housing (1950-52). Image © John Hartmann

Lucio Costa, Guinle Park residential buildings, Caledonia (1954)

Lucio Costa, Guinle Park residential buildings, Caledonia (1954). Image © John Hartmann

Lucio Costa, Guinle Park residential buildings, Nova Cintra (1948)

Lucio Costa, Guinle Park residential buildings, Nova Cintra (1948). Image © John Hartmann

MMM Roberto, Julio de Barros Barreto Apartment Building (1947)

MMM Roberto, Julio de Barros Barreto Apartment Building (1947). Image © John Hartmann
MMM Roberto, Julio de Barros Barreto Apartment Building (1947). Image © John Hartmann

Oscar Niemeyer, Hospital Da Lagoa (1952)

Oscar Niemeyer, Hospital Da Lagoa (1952). Image © John Hartmann
Oscar Niemeyer, Hospital Da Lagoa (1952). Image © John Hartmann

John Hartmann is a principal at Freecell Architecture and is currently teaching at the School of Constructed Environments at Parsons.  He was in Brazil with his wife, Gia Wolff, who received the 2013 Wheelwright Prize to study the spectacle of carnival floats in the city.

Cite: John Hartmann. "An Architect’s Journey to Brazil" 15 Nov 2013. ArchDaily. Accessed 21 Dec 2014. <http://www.archdaily.com/?p=446776>