The new Brazilian architecture has many flaws: it is young, it hasn’t had much time to stop and reflect, but came into being all of a sudden, as a beautiful child. We can agree that brise-soleil and tilework are ‘intentional elements’, that some of Oscar [Niemeyer]’s free forms are sculptural complacencies, that the construction is not always up to scratch, and that in certain instances details are resolved in a way that is inconsistent with the whole (on this I must agree with my European friends). We cannot accept, however, that Brazilian architecture is already on its way towards academicism, as various foreign reviews would have it (such as Bruno Zevi’s important book, for example1), and nor will it be for as long as its spirit is the human spirit and its goal the improvement of living conditions – for as long as it draws its inspiration from the intimate poetry of the Brazilian land. These are the values that define contemporary Brazilian architecture. Its source is not the architecture of the Jesuits: it comes from the wattle-and-daub shelter of the solitary man, laboriously constructed out of the materials of the forest, it comes from the house of the rubber-tapper, with its wooden floor and thatch roof. It alludes to, even resonates with, this fierce resolve to make, in which there is a pride and a poetry – the pride and poetry of the backlander who has never known the great cities or the monuments of civilisation, who cannot refer to a tradition that stretches back thousands of years, but whose achievements – things made possible only because of his singular pride – cause men from ancient civilisations to stop and stare.
For a direction to follow, Brazil looked to the work of Le Corbusier (who visited Brazil, as did Wright), as it seemed to correspond most closely to the aspirations of a Latin people – a poetic work, unrestrained by puritanical assumptions or prejudices.
This lack of polish, this crudeness, this carefree appropriation and transformation is the driving force behind contemporary Brazilian architecture – it requires a continual mixing of technological know-how with the spontaneity and passion of primitive art. Which is why we do not agree with our European friends’ view that Brazilian architecture is on the path towards academicism.