Iwan Baan photographed Indian residents of Altamira, in the northern state of Pará, who are being displaced by construction of the Belo Monte hydroelectric dam, which will flood 200,000 square miles of land. [Courtesy of the São Paulo Architecture Biennial]
The recently completed Transnordestina railroad channels agricultural, industrial and petroleum products from Pernambuco and other northern states through the Suape Port and Industrial Complex, a rapidly expanding cargo hub near Recife. [Courtesy of the São Paulo Architecture Biennial]
High-rise apartment towers epitomize the “verticalization” of development in metropolitan São Paulo. [Courtesy of the São Paulo Architecture Biennial]
In his 1965 project Rio of the Future, Sergio Bernardes imagined “vertical neighborhoods” dotting the landscape. Even as his project evokes 20th-century urban visions from Europe, Asia and North America, its verdure and formal dynamism reflect a pairing of mid-century modernism with spectacular and lush landscape that sets Rio apart from other modern cities. [Courtesy of the São Paulo Architecture Biennial]
In Copan Building Guide, Pablo León de la Barra celebrates Oscar Niemeyer’s sinuous Copan Building (1951) as a distinctively Brazilian realization of Corbusian ideals for high-rise housing as a hub of metropolitan life. León de la Barra’s project combines historical documents, such as this construction photograph, with analytical drawings and text. [Courtesy of the São Paulo Architecture Biennial]
In one of the photographs from his series Clouds, Mathieu Pernot documents the demolition of French grands ensembles built during the 1950s and 1960s. [Courtesy of the São Paulo Architecture Biennial]
A triptych from The Banality of Good: Six Decades of New Towns, Architects, Money, and Politics, by Crimson Architectural Historians, constellates period and recent views of Stevenage (a British New Town developed after World War II) with iconic images associated with the garden city movement. [Courtesy of the São Paulo Architecture Biennial]
In Alta Densidad, photographer Jorge Taboada captures the seriality of new suburbs outside Mexico City. [Courtesy of the São Paulo Architecture Biennial]
The series Architecture of Density, by photographer Michael Wolf, finds sublimity in China’s high-rise housing. [Courtesy of the São Paulo Architecture Biennial]
Drawings from Cities Without Ground, a study by Adam Frampton, Jonathan D. Solomon, and Clara Wong, describe Hong Kong’s multilayered urbanism. [Courtesy of Jonathan D. Solomon]
The photographs and videos in Valentina Tong’s series The Rendered World capture the slightly unreal quality of Chinese buildings and cities that seem to have been exported from architectural visualization software. [Installation photo by Leandro Moraes]
Installed in the Paraíso station on the São Paulo Metro, Urban Landscape Lab’s Safari documented the complexity of urban ecologies along rapid transit lines in New York, Hong Kong and Shenzhen, and now São Paulo, using maps, drawings, podcasts and videos to show riders how they can use the train line to trace conflicts and synergies between natural and urban systems. [Installation photo by Jonathan Massey]
Combining performance and training rooms with sports facilities and community services, the Center for Social Action through Music, designed by Urban Think Tank for the Grotão area of the Paraisópolis favela in São Paulo, parallels interventions in Caracas, Medellín, and other cities that are building social infrastructure to regularize informal communities. [Courtesy of the São Paulo Architecture Biennial]
The Makoko Floating School, designed by the Dutch and Nigerian firm NLÉ in the poor estuarial community of Lagos, demonstrates how Brazil’s informal communities can improve sanitation and social services through collaboration with global design innovators. [Courtesy of the São Paulo Architecture Biennial]
Monica Schoenacker’s Sericleta — a bicycle outfitted with a silkscreen press — proposes to bring D.I.Y. placards and t-shirts to Brazilian neighborhoods. [Installation photo by Jonathan Massey]
A tent from Occupy Wall Street was exhibited alongside ephemera from social movements around the world. [Installation photo by Jonathan Massey]
The exhibit Ways of Crossing, installed in a large, below-grade hall in Lina Bo Bardi’s Museu de Arte, used the architect’s distinctive glass display panels to exhibit artworks and architectural designs made from the 1960s to the 1980s, by Bo Bardi, Paulo Mendes da Rocha, Hélio Oiticica and Cildo Meireles. [Installation photograph by Leandro Moraes]
Photographer Valentina Tong presents an allegory of Brazilian modernism in the counterpoint between formal and informal at Casa Moriyama, designed by architect Ryue Nishizawa. [Courtesy of the São Paulo Architecture Biennial]
Hector Zamora’s Brazil (Bike), installed in one of the courtyards of the Centro Cultural, evoked the country’s distinctive combination of industrial development and self-build labor, representing Brazilian modernity as both liberatory and crushing. [Installation photo by Leandro Moraes]
In 1941, Austrian expatriate Stefan Zweig described Brazil as a nation that might teach the warring planet how humans could “live peacefully together, despite all the differences of race, class, color, religion and creed.” Discerning in South America’s largest, most diverse country a peaceful and humane society that was building distinctively modern cities in harmony with nature, Zweig concluded that he had “looked into the future of our world.”
That prophecy later became the subject of a joke: Brazil is the country of the future — and it always will be. Brasília, the new capital inaugurated in 1960, exemplified the “orderly, clean-lined architecture and city planning” Zweig had praised, but it also — like most of the nation’s cities — spawned favelas and unplanned communities lacking basic infrastructure and civil services.
Now a decade of strong economic growth has changed the story. Led by the expansion of mining, agribusiness and urban development, Brazil’s economy surged through the late 2000s, even while the Great Recession sapped economies around the world. As Brazil prepares to host the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympic Games in rapid succession, observers are suggesting that Brazil’s moment has at last arrived.
Under the banner “City: Ways of Making, Ways of Using,” the 10th São Paulo Architecture Biennial examined the wave of development and construction reshaping the country. In the projects shown here, architects and artists reflect on the problems and possibilities of economic and urban growth. How is rapid urbanization happening? Who is benefiting, and who is being displaced or excluded? What can architects and citizens do to exert leverage on processes at once local and global?
Sponsored by the Instituto de Arquitetos do Brasil, the exhibition was curated by a team led by architect and historian Guilherme Wisnik with architects Ana Luiza Nobre and Ligia Nobre, and produced by Ana Helena Curti. They organized hundreds of works under eight thematic chapters: on ways of acting, inhabiting, flowing, encountering, crossing, negotiating, being modern, and collaborating. They installed each chapter in a different museum, cultural center, metro station or plaza, dispersing the exhibition across a large part of the metropolis, over seven weeks last fall.
A key focus of the exhibition was the “spectacle of growth” promised by former President Lula da Silva in his 2002 campaign. Several projects addressed the development of Pernambuco, Pará, and other northern states where mining, agribusiness, manufacturing and oil refining are stimulating new infrastructure and housing. Studies of São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro scrutinized the transformations under way as these southern cities address infrastructure needs, formalize informal communities, and build new facilities for the upcoming global games. Models, maps and photographs explored large state-sponsored housing initiatives as well as a small selection of distinctive single-family houses.
The curators put Brazilian developments into dialogue with reports from megalopolitan areas in South and North America, Europe, Africa and Asia — especially China, the “concrete dragon” that epitomizes intensive economic and urban growth. The show included material from Hong Kong, Shenzhen, Beijing and Ordos, inviting audiences to contemplate the rise of the BRIC countries and their dense instant cities. Several sections foregrounded the ways that everyday urban residents claim agency and a Lefebvrian right to the city, whether through activism or tactics of daily life. A restaging of the Canadian Centre for Architecture show “Actions: What You Can Do With the City” offered an alternative model to the large-scale urbanization foregrounded in other galleries.
The Biennial also looked back to mid-20th-century legacies at home and abroad, including modernist urban visions by Sérgio Bernardes for Rio de Janeiro and the grands ensembles of postwar France, as well as a show of art and architecture by Paulo Mendes da Rocha, Cildo Meireles, Hélio Oiticica and Lina Bo Bardi.
The venues included some of São Paulo’s greatest buildings, among them Bo Bardi’s Museu de Arte on Avenida Paulista and her SESC Pompeia across town, as well as the extraordinary Centro Cultural de São Paulo, a groundscraper designed in the 1970s by Eurico Prado Lopes and Luiz Telles. Talks and performances, programs and actions augmented the exhibits, as did a series of short essays in a special Biennial edition of the architecture journal Monolito. The result was a rich, varied, sometimes scattershot but always interesting exploration of how architects and users can intervene in big modernization processes through analysis, building design and small interventions.