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The Rise of Popular Modernist Architecture in Brazil

Fernando Luiz Lara

Publication Year: 2008

During the mid-twentieth century, Brazil as a country seemed to be fascinated with modernism. Middle-class people would read about it in popular newspapers and journals, then go about designing their own homes in the modernist style, using distinctive layouts and façades. In other words, modernist architecture was the popular architecture of Brazil.

Fernando Luiz Lara investigates how and why modern architecture became so popular in his native country, tracking the path of the dissemination as well as the economic, cultural, and political conditions that made it possible. He views it as a direct extension of the optimism and relative stability that spread throughout the country beginning in the 1950s.

This original and significant contribution to the field counters the traditional historiography of modernist architecture, and has broad applicability in examining the importance of the style throughout Latin America.

Published by: University Press of Florida


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Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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p. vii

List of Illustrations

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pp. ix-x

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pp. xi-xiv

Modernist architecture is on display in Brazilian cities. It is not a corporate modernism that catches the eye, though the sort of formulaic architecture of glass towers with capital flourishes that dominates American skylines is now a staple of new business zones in São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, and many other cities. Rather, the modernism...

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pp. xv-xvi

I am indebted to many institutions that helped me carry out this research over the last decade. I want to thank the Brazilian CAPES Foundation (1996–2000), the Latin American and Caribbean Studies Center (1998) and the Institute for the Humanities...

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pp. 1-4

My motivation to research and write about the dissemination of modernist vocabulary and spatiality in mid-twentieth-century Brazil was born from a misunderstanding. When I first arrived in the United States in 1996, I walked the streets looking...

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1. The Time and Place of Architecture’s Popular Modernism

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pp. 5-24

Brazilian architecture entered the 1950s enjoying worldwide recognition for its quality and ingenuity and closed the decade with what should be its climax: the construction of Brasília (1957–60). In the 1950s, architects’ eyes were all on Brazil (Tinem...

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2. Documenting Popular Modernism

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pp. 25-63

When in 1955 Walter Gropius visited the house of the Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer, which had been completed the previous year in Canoas, he commented that the house was truly beautiful but could not be massproduced. Gropius’s remark...

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3. Reasons for Popular Modernism in Brazil

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pp. 64-102

The transformations in architecture that announced the emergence of modernism began to appear in the final decades of the nineteenth century. Those transformations are intimately related to the idea of modernity, and it is clear that modernity...

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4. Problematizing Popular Modernism

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pp. 103-121

Among the many problems that arise as an outcome of the tumultuous relationship among modernity, modernization, and modernism is the dilemma regarding the very definition of architecture. Many critics search for internal coherence in...

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5. Lessons from Popular Modernism

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pp. 122-134

This chapter presents my conclusions on the phenomenon of Brazilian popular modernism. Beginning with a discussion of what it means to examine Brazilian modern architecture through popular lenses, I proceed by investigating the applicability...


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pp. 135-136


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pp. 137-146


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pp. 147-149

About the Author

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p. 150

E-ISBN-13: 9780813048048
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813032894
Print-ISBN-10: 081303289X

Page Count: 176
Illustrations: 49 b&w illustrations
Publication Year: 2008

OCLC Number: 801847925
MUSE Marc Record: Download for The Rise of Popular Modernist Architecture in Brazil

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Architecture, Domestic -- Brazil.
  • Architecture -- Brazil -- History -- 20th century.
  • Modern movement (Architecture) -- Influence.
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