Kenneth Frampton Discovers Brazilian Modern Architecture


In 1980, architecture historian Kenneth Frampton published the fundamental book of his area “Modern Architecture: A Critical History”. This title, which was translated into 11 languages, continues to be published. Each edition contains a revision increasing the solidity of his analysis continuously. In the last revision, he is showcasing a less “euro centrical” world, including the Asian, African as well as the Brazilian architecture. 

In this new edition, he articulates the biggest critique about his work himself, admitting the exclusion of a major part of the world. At the same time, he defends the revision of the analysis to a more complete history,  anticipating that one never writes “the” history, but rather from his own point of view. 

On his research in Brazil, Kenneth Frampton discovered that the first modern building of the country was built by the Russian immigrant Gregori Warchavchik. Le Corbusier arrived in Brazil only ten years later. He was called by Lucio Costa to help him designing the Ministry of Education and Health, which was for a long time considered the first modern building in Brazil. 

Warchavchik’s house however, was built in 1928. At the time, the architect had argued with the public authorities who did not approve the construction of the building without ornamentation. After finishing the residence, the architect claimed not having the funds for the missing ornaments, which he had added to the approval drawings. The design of the residence, located in São Paulo, follows the five modern principles: rationalism, comfort, utility, cross ventilation and illumination. Today, after an extensive renovation in 2010, the house is open to the public. 

Besides Warchavchik’s house, Brazil has a remarkable and largely intact heritage of modern architecture. Oscar Niemeyer, Lucio Costa, Affonso Reidy, Lina Bo Bardi and other modern architects, lived in a prosperous era where opportunities were big and numerous. It culminated in the construction of the new capital Brasilia in 1960, today a functioning city with 4 million inhabitants,  a must see for every architect. 

Like Kenneth Frampton, Guiding Architects Rio de Janeiro studies the heritage of Brazilian modern architecture and promotes it in its tours. More than just reading about it, experiencing built space helps to comprehendarchitecture in all its three dimensions. Turn your next vacation into an unforgettable journey to Brazil’s architectural gems and immerse into the welcoming tropical culture too with the professional guidance of Guiding Architects Rio de Janeiro.

April 19th 2017

Barbara Iseli