To better understand architecture's relationship with cultural identity and the notion of Regionalism, this paper explores the regional component in the development of modem architecture in Brazil, and the general question of what might be defined as an 'uniquely Brazilian' architectural language. Modernism quickly flourished in Brazil in the 1940s, after its arrival; this condition opened the doors for the later design and construction of Brasilia, the new capital that was - despite being so far away from Europe - built in the Brazilian hinterland strictly to the principles of CIAM and the Charta of Athens (Gropius, Giedion, et al: zoning, functional arrangement, standardisation, structural logic, efficiency). Tragically, the inauguration of Brasilia in 1960 coincided with the era when Classical Modernism and CIAM had just reached a major crisis point and, eventually, were unable to continue. At this point, Modernism a la Bauhaus and CIAM, with its exclusive model of a zoned city composed of stand-alone buildings, had lost its credibility. Twentieth century architecture in Brazil has many faces, from the first emergence of Modernism in the postcolonial (post-Portuguese and Indigenous) context with the pivotal, heroic works of Costa, Warchavchik, and Levi (the first generation of modem Brazilian architects), and the fascinating flamboyant buildings by Reidy and Niemeyer in Rio de Janeiro (creations that express so well the spirit of the Carioca people), to the highly individual works of Artigas and Bo Bardi in São Paulo and Salvador. With the shift of focus in the 1950s from the city of Rio de Janeiro to São Paulo, we can also observe the transformation from a 'Modemismo Carioca' to the tendency recently identified as 'Brutalismo Paulistano' (Segawa, 1998; Lehmann, 2003; Verde Zein, 2004). Like International Brutalism, 'Brutalismo Paulistano' is not only characterised by its rough concrete formwork (beton brut) and little care for details, but also for its direct attempt to emphasis the 'large-scale form' through the expression of structure. Furthermore, this tendency has specifically Brazilian features, as identified by the author: dealing with São Paulo's local construction industry and its (sub)tropical climate. Previous studies on Brazil concentrated mainly on the first era that is called 'the golden years of Brazilian architecture', which ended around 1955, closely connected with the outstanding work of Oscar Niemeyer. This paper aims to expand the time frame and further widening the focus into the 1960s, an era encompassing the military dictatorship starting in 1964. By doing so, the study investigates the well-known, but usually oversimplified debate of International Modernism versus Regionalism. Colquhoun points out that there were always both movements working simultaneously, with Regionalism being equally dynamic - in fact, interplay between International Modernism and Regionalism (Colquhoun, 1997). The transfer of ideas, like trans-cultural injections, and the importation of European culture, such as Classical Modernism, into emerging countries such as Brazil, Mexico, or India (think of Chandigarh), has been a dynamic, not static phenomenon. Migrants who immigrated from all over the world (especially from war-ridden Europe) to Latin America influenced local architecture with their knowledge, habits and diverse cultures, so that Modernism merged there into something different and unique (the so-called 'Other Modernisms'), fusing with regional, local elements and the traditions of the region. Thus, Modernism - and subsequently Brutalism - were adopted into a regional context, transformed and further modified by the requirements of the (sub)tropical climate, local availability of materials and construction methods. Ironically, the importation of the heroic Avant-garde into the developing world reflected back to Europe as counter-critique soon after, following a regional reshaping of the ideas from the Bauhaus. Giedion's construction of a single, exclusive history of modem architecture as a consistent, dogmatic 'grand-narrative' which he started in the 1930s (and thus ignoring the plurality and multi-layering of reality) had finally been questioned. The final part of the paper is dedicated to drawing appropriate conclusions. One conclusion is that there is no identity outside its context, as the local and global exists always side-by-side, intertwined with each other. There is a certain paradox in the fact that an anti-globalist movement like Regionalism seeks to extend itself worldwide; another conclusion is that regional identities, such as found in São Paulo or in Salvador, are dynamic and still evident even in times of globalisation - if one is searching for them. Therefore, the term 'Dynamic Regionalism' suggests itself as the appropriate one (Lehmann, 2003).
Second International Conference of the Centre for the Study of Architecture in the Arab Region (CSAAR 2007). Regional Architecture and Identity in the Age of Globalization. Proceedings of the CSAAR 2007 Conference, Volume 2 (Tunis, Tunisia 13-15 November, 2007) p. 627-644