- October 10, 2021
Pampulha #01: autochthonous research in review or spicy penguin stew 1
Master in Architecture Faculdade de Arquitetura da Universidade de São Paulo
Already in Pampulha’s first issue – which contains among other things interviews with Oscar Niemeyer and Lucio Costa in their respective offices, accompanied by historical photographic records2 – the reader is presented with a full-service buffet: conflicts between tradition and rupture; disputes of national and international, universal and local narratives; political and ecological tensions; cultural and economic liberalization of the country. In short, matters of recontextualization. The editorial itself provides us some crumbs in presenting hybrid identity formulations that tie threads through the likes of Guimarães Rosa, Villard de Honnecourt, Brunelleschi, Gaudí, Corbusier, and Niemeyer3 .
Another example is Niemeyer’s interview – a conversation he would later deny4 and replace with a testimony5 –, which was criticized and mocked in Costa’s interview on the following pages. Unlike Niemeyer, Costa’s testimony is frank and revealing of an old man exhausted from persistent reproductions of the same answers to many other ongoing problems, two decades after Brasília. Bitter yet poignant, Costa sneers Niemeyer’s perspective6 , comparing his use of the human scale7 with penguins8 ‘another drawing, for the cover’, he [Lúcio Costa] said ‘no less…, with the square in front of the Praça do Planalto (Brasília, DF) with, in the words of Lucio Costa, ‘penguins in the guise of people…’”.]- a provocation made by Costa probably addressed to the turbulent “slow, gradual and safe”9 resumption of democracy in the country after the 1964 military coup. It is fair to say that there is no report of any political engagement by members of Pampulha’s team with any Marxist orientation à la lettre , such as those of the militant youth responsible for the 1970s student riots10 . If we compare Niemeyer’s dated perspective on the cover with the date of the magazine’s launch11 , there is an air of apathy and assimilation of hegemonic discourses that avoids any type of call to action or theoretical rigor12 , meaning: Niemeyer defaults to hybrid and encrypted suggestions.
The same can be said about architectural literature and theory. While drawings, images, and written discourse published in the magazine directly or indirectly mention the work of theorists like Robert Venturi, James Stirling, or Peter Eisenman13 , at the same time there is a negative attitude towards erudition, scholarship, and ideological patrols. Theory as fried food, tasty but a vice to be avoided. This attitude towards a third way of ingestion14 is also notable in the cultural implications and involvements of the 3 Arquitetos’ group. Their friendship with artists like the members of Clube da Esquina15 is evidence of this. Nascimento, the band’s singer, for example, who despite not having any ties with left-wing parties or even having produced songs of protest16 , was harshly persecuted during the dictatorship.
Complexity and contradiction are not exquisite sauces dressed over this production around Pampulha’s magazine. By prompting a renewed discussion of the field at the same time that two of the greatest bastions of modern Brazilian architecture were honored17 , and composing visual experiments that courted practices of the most varied lineages and origins, without a defined agenda, this production can help us fill a gap in the understanding and location of the current state of Brazilian contemporary architecture. If the very discussion about postmodernity and contemporaneity encounters difficult deglutition, either because of the density, acidity, and amplitude of the term or because of the political-ideological implications that they may represent18 , flavored blends19 like these, between this production from Minas Gerais and others in national scope, become possible.
So, one could add to this cauldron, for instance, the work of Anne Marie Sumner and Sophia Telles, and their reverberations in the country’s re-democratization. Architect and critic, respectively, both of them engaged Trotskyist student tendencies20 and produced a decisive knowledge for the history of architecture made in Brazil. Sumner favored the internationalist vocation of yesteryear first as an intern at Peter Eisenman’s office , later organizing one of the architect’s first solo exhibitions outside the US at MASP – Museu de Arte de São Paulo Assis Chateaubriand- in 1993; Telles wrote, three years earlier, one of the most definitive essays for the consolidation and understanding of the work of architect Paulo Mendes da Rocha. Perhaps this is a cautionary tale that, although worthy of pursuit, any legitimate attempt of blending such distinct tastes would certainly make you late for dinner.