By Mario Gioia, crítico de arte y curador independiente (Brasil) | February 26, 2021

After a visit to Infinito Vão, one of the predominant sensations is that the best of Brazilian architecture always comes in duo with an expressive presence of the visual arts, both in modern times and in these conflicting current days. The exhibition, subtitled 90 years of Brazilian architecture and curated by Fernando Serapião and Guilherme Wisnik, is based at Sesc 24 de Maio, already emblematic of Paulo Mendes da Rocha, one of the two Pritzkers born in the country.


Occupying the old premises of a department store, the cultural center houses a robust pool on its roof, which opens up the landscape to the multifaceted central area of ​​São Paulo - of horrendous buildings typical of the real estate speculation of the 70s of the last century, but also opening others aimed at key buildings in the city, such as the aristocratic Municipal Theater, the Martinelli (one of the first skyscrapers in the city) and Italy. Amid the concrete and glass plans designed by Mendes da Rocha and the MMBB office, there are inspired works by artists of various generations such as Carmela Gross, Elisa Bracher and Estela Sokol. Visiting the space is democratic, with the presence of workers from nearby offices, homeless residents and immigrants of different origins, especially from African countries, who have taken root in the vicinity.


The exhibition with projects by 96 architects / offices is the result of a partnership between Sesc and Casa da Arquitectura - Portuguese Architecture Center, from Matosinhos, the area's memory center in the European country and which houses the Brazil Collection. With about 55 thousand items - drawings, texts and models, for example -, the cut begins to encompass the almost centenary architectural history of the Latin American country.

The rich Brazilian legacy in this area is unquestionable and the challenge imposed on the two curators working in SP, curated by the Portuguese Nuno Sampaio, was how to synthesize such a vigorous, diverse and extensive production. The master line was supported by sections mediated by MPB songs, another field of major excellence in Brazilian culture and today the target of obscurantist and anti-intellectual groups, more noisy than representative in the complex national political moment. In some moments the approach sounds didactic, however, in certain inflections, the union proves to be right, especially in the module Eu vi o Brasil na TV (1969-1985), an excerpt from Bye Bye Brasil, by Chico Buarque and Roberto Menescal.

In its intro, the audiovisual makes a collage of images of impact, but deeply current, when stills show the Transamazônica highway crossing the forest, leaving a trail of fire crackling for miles around; hydroelectric plants flooding vast green regions; miners with unbelievable clusters of workers; elevated roads corroding the organicity of the urban fabric in major cities such as SP and Rio without return; and peripheries populating the edges of the largest urban agglomerations with intense inequality.

At the same time, some of the most important national achievements in this milieu came precisely in those times of various restrictions. There is the prestigious Sesc Pompeia (1977), by the Italian-Brazilian Lina Bo Bardi (1914-1992), which is now popular worldwide, but also the least conspicuous in critical resonance Centro Cultural São Paulo (1976), by Eurico Prado Lopes (1939 -1985) and Luiz Telles (1943-2014), a mixture of building with industrial lines à la Pompidou and intensive use by several generations of public. “The building is permeable and allows free and varied routes. Indomitable, he does not allow himself to be controlled, nor does he allow any kind of monitoring, a generous fruit of the libertarian spirit of the 1970s ”, says Carlos Augusto Calil, a film theorist and former director of the institution.

In the same sector, there are also some of the biggest surprises of the exhibition. The Environmental Protection Center (1983), in Balbina, in the middle of the Amazon, is a project signed by Severiano Porto (1930-2020) and Mario Emílio Ribeiro (1930-2014) and unites the indigenous constructive tradition and technical advances with rare success. recent. Hering Matriz (1968) is the result of drawing boards by Hans Broos (1921-2011), a Slovak-German architect who managed to give brutalist lines and strong technical refinement to a factory plant in Blumenau, Santa Catarina, a state not usually on the radar of investigations by architectural modernity in the country. And the Chapel of Santana do Pé do Morro (1979), in Ouro Branco, Minas Gerais, brings the intervention of Éolo Maia (1942-2002) and Jô Vasconcellos in a historic site in a subtle, non-invasive and quite open manner.

Between sketches, stilts and free spans

To support the narrative about architecture, the curators resorted to investigations from other areas to strengthen the display of photographs, plans, models, drawings and general documentation on such projects. Not to mention the audiovisual, already mentioned, there is the presentation of design objects, such as benches and chairs - somewhat shy, in face of the powerful local production, even in the years of the chosen buildings - and works from the Sesc de Arte Collection, which has important names in its collection, in addition to one-off loans. In the collective, works of Lygia Clark (1920-1988), Geraldo de Barros (1923-1998), Augusto de Campos, Claudio Tozzi, Rubens Gerchman (1942-2008) and Lais Myrrha, among others, can be remembered.

There are the undoubtedly successful duos of architecture and visual arts, such as the bold Ministry of Education and Health (now Gustavo Capanema Palace), a 1936 team project with Lucio Costa (1902-1998), Oscar Niemeyer (1907-2012) and Carlos Leão (1906-1983), with consultancy by Le Corbusier (1887-1965), located in the center of Rio de Janeiro. In the building that followed Corbusier's rationalist precepts, there are tiles by Candido Portinari (1903-1962), sculptures by Bruno Giorgi (1905-1993) and Celso Antonio (1896-1984), among other contributions. Also shown is the architecture of the official buildings of Brasilia, the country's capital, opened in 1960, of buildings such as the Itamaraty Palace, with pieces by Giorgi, Athos Bulcão (1918-2008), Alfredo Ceschiatti (1918-1989), Franz Weissmann (1911-2005), Alfredo Volpi (1896-1988) and Zélia Salgado (1904-2009), among other medallions.

However, there are contemporary initiatives, such as the hydraulic tile panel made by the painter Fabio Flaks, 43, for Casa 4x30 (2010), in SP, from the emerging CR2 and FGMF offices. A compliment to the national artistic tradition without neglecting the present and a particular function of continuity in the program.


And one can also mention the old residences that today host cultural activities in SP, such as Castor Delgado Perez (1958), a project led by Rino Levi (1901-1965) and which today hosts Luciana Brito Galeria, whose names are on the list like Marina Abramovic, Alex Katz, Bosco Sodi and Rochelle Costi. Or that of Tomie Ohtake (1913-2015), a project authored by her son Ruy dating from 1970.

Thus, with abundant documentary production arranged on exhibition tables and excellent current photographic records by Leonardo Finotti, Infinito Vão must settle down as a reference show about Brazilian architecture, which, between ups and downs, remains poetic and vigorous.

Exhibition: Infinito Vão - 90 Years of Brazilian Architecture

Commissioner: Nuno Sampaio; Curators: Fernando Serapião and Guilherme Wisnik

When: until 6/27/2021

Where: Sesc 24 de Maio