Few countries have committed to modernism as deeply as Brazil has. For decades, the country invested its biggest assets in developing its past’s eclectic, colonial character. It became a land of new ideas, of experimental art, design, music, dance, and architecture. Respectively, the weight of modernism’s giants grew greater, and masterminds like Oscar Niemeyer and Roberto Burle Marx gained international importance due to the many projects they executed. Moreover, in Brazil, it seems that the Moderna lasted far longer than in any other country—or, rather, that it never actually died.
Today, however, is a different age. While modernist architecture can be admired, it has to be examined with a critical lens and a new perception. In cases like Niemeyer’s “Brasilia,” many projects that look stunning in a photo may end up feeling inhuman, monumental, and aggressive when visited in person. The materialized ideas of the mid-century are being studied, deconstructed and interpreted in new projects. Following our recent post on Brazil’s modern era, we now fast-forward to the present to see how the country’s modernism has influenced its later architecture. Rich-kitsch or elegance? Judge for yourself.
Isay Weinfeld has been the poster boy for high-end Brazilian architecture for more than 15 years. His updated style relies heavily on modernist values, especially in its boxy geometry and panoramic dimensions. Having said that, Weinfeld is responsible for some of the most elegant homes designed in Brazil in recent years, as well as commercial boutiques and cultural spaces. Weinfeld attracts a rich clientele, a crowd that can afford the expensive materials, features, and surplus-spaces that are part of his projects.
Weinfeld’s Pau-Ferro House. Expansive and rich, with a suggestive minimal modesty. Image via
Modernist proportions and color schemes: A rendering of Weinfeld’s entry to the design competition of Rio De Janeiro’s Museum of Image and Sound. Image via
A white cube: The Piracicaba House by Weinfeld. Photo via
A Weinfeld-designed retail interior. Photo via
The Casa Brasilia by Weinfeld. Photo via
BK / BISELLI + KATCHBORIAN ARQUITETOS
An esteemed, established firm, BK was founded by Mario Biselli and Artur Katchborian. The two teach at several Brazilian universities while running their busy office. The office’s work draws from mid-century American modernism, specifically from architects like Richard Neutra and Charles and Ray Eames. Constructive elements are very noticeable in their designs, while inner spaces remain clean and minimal. In 2010, BK participated in the exhibition “50 Years After Brasilia” at the Brazilian pavilion of the Venice Architecture Biennale (along with a few other architects in this post). This highlighted the pair’s connection to the country’s modern heritage.
Residencia LVPM by BK Architects, 2001. Did anyone mention Case-Study Houses? Images via
A competition entry by BK Architects for the Nam Jun Paik Museum (2003, semi-finalist). Image via
A balcony detail in Residencia BV by BK Architects, 2008. Photo by Nelson Kon via
SPBR / ANGELO BUCCI
Angelo Bucci is the director of SPBR, a practice known primarily for its residential projects. From certain angles, SPBR’s designs seem like they were built 50 years ago. However, the office uses technological innovation to make their projects appear lighter. A recurring sight in its work is a juxtaposition of floating rectangles.
SPBR’s house in Aldeia Al Serra, Sao Paulo. Mixing Mies with Johnson, Eames, Breuer and Le Corbusier for neo-modern luxury. Images via
A school in Sao Paulo, designed by SPBR (2006). Photos via
An established firm in Brazil, Gustavo Penna has been active since the 1980s, designing everything from villas and stadiums to urban plans. He may fall into the PoMo category, yet like everything else in Brazil, Penna’s architectural gestures are grand, and sometimes almost intimidating.
The Mineirao Stadium, a 1960’s structure renovated by Penna over the last few years. Image via
The Japanese Immigration Memorial in Brazil, designed by Penna in 2009. Photo via
An aging, yet active, Brazilian practice. Though years pass, and modernism is long gone, Tozzi continues to believe in it. One of his latest projects, A chapel in Brazil, could be easily attributed to a modernist like Felix Candela.
Tozzi’s 2002 (!) project – the Veneza Farm Chapel. Photos via
As its name suggests, this office is a collaborative group of architects working in Sao Paulo. The group consists of architects of different ages that work together on competitions and projects of all scales and genres. Overall, Grupo SP’s buildings vary quite a lot in character, but a wink to late modernism is consistent.
A Sao Paulo school designed in 2005 by Grupo SP. Image via
A private home by Grupo SP in Sao Paulo. Photos via