Another essential Brazilian | Óscar Tenreiro Degwitz

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Una acuarela de Lucio Costa de un rincón colonial brasileño, hecha en 1927
A watercolor of Lucio Costa from a Brazilian colonial corner, made in 1927

This wandering through the legacy of Oscar Niemeyer takes one to the Brazilian culture. And within it architecture as an accepted expression, promoted and integrated into a kind of national “being”. Because that journey of centennial and exceptional man is also the path of a culture.

To verify what has been said, it is enough to refer to Lucio Costa (1902-1998) as a tutelary figure, a quiet, calm and enormously acute character, who was not only the manager of the process of opening Brazil towards modern architecture, but acted as a road companion who leaves in the hands of the one who accompanies the main word when appropriate, as is the case of Niemeyer, or instrumental link thanks to his role as adviser and reference.

And the book published by Maria Elisa, his daughter, architect and woman of great culture, shortly after his death, written and organized almost entirely by himself, helps not only to place his contribution to thinking about architecture, but the breadth of his interests , its relation with the Brazilian world that elaborates ideas, that debates, that flows, that produces; reports on his work as architect-designer and builder, modest could be said but marked by a rigorous faith in the postulates of modernity that he actively cultivated, accompanied by a search for the legacy of the shadow, the corridors, the tranquility inherited from architecture colonial, searches that interrupted at a given time to better deliver themselves to their role of mediation and intercession.

The whole of a life.

Its pages include its numerous writings, almost all of them aimed at reasoning in order to promote decisions in the political sector or helping to become aware of the values of architecture and its urban consequences. Others, many, personal, written with concise and beautiful style. And many references to his family life, to the spiritual heritage of his parents, Joaquín and Alina, the naval engineer; his daughters Helena and Maria Elisa. And as a permanent presence the relationship with Le Corbusier, close and reflective, of which I had an unexpected show when reading many years ago, in the LC Foundation, a personal letter where he relates in a way that moved me to tears the death of Leleta , his wife and dear companion, in a car accident that marked his life. Relationship that led him, was coincidentally in France at that time, to move with Charlotte Perriand to Roquebrunne-Cap Martin, to find the corpse of Le Corbusier to move him to Paris spending the night halfway in a cell of the convent of La Tourette. The title of the book emphasizes what the author wanted of him, to show not only his work but the world of his interests, his intellectual and affective space, which is what ultimately makes a man:

“Lucio Costa, record of an experience”.

And of course in the book there are documents about Brasilia. There is the Descriptive Report with which he accompanied his proposal in the contest for the Master Plan. If once almost fifty years ago that text aroused great admiration in me, today it remains a sample of that kind of spark, of a touch of “genius” in the sense of Robert Graves (to jump beyond the immediate, of the predictable ) which is the organizing principle of this extraordinary city. It captures the basic concept of what the city is, its “being” in the broadest sense of the term, beyond the simple applications of road or transport techniques, economic speculations, technicalities that avoid the issue central: a city is today and will always be a proposal of construction within an order.

Respect and reflection from the Power.

I have already said too much that in the presence of Lucio Costa, in the respect that the Political Power had for him, in his work as an intermediary, is the key that Brasilia is an indisputable reality, beyond reservations or questions. But Lucio is not a coincidence. Lucio was made and realized in a society that respected him and opened his soul. Not without struggles of course, but respect was imposed on a point of view, a way of seeing the world that marked a high point, very high. That is no small thing. For things like this and many others who live in my privacy, I have always admired that country and what it represents.

And I leave to finish this reflection:

What makes a country responsible for the construction of the Presidential Residence to its greatest living architect, giving it total freedom because it is a model, unique, that belongs to everyone and especially a culture?

And on the contrary

What mechanism makes a task similar to a close architect or friend “of the party” of government, in search of a “neo colonial” in good manners, with corridors and gardens of a certain place in the world very close to the previous one? tone, without any cultural impact?

Good question for all of us, in this country crossed by pettiness.

Lucio’s book includes as a separate letter a letter that, on the occasion of his 95th birthday, was written by the President of Brazil Fernando Enrique Cardoso in 1997, which includes these phrases:

“You know of my admiration for his work and for his singular contribution to the development in Brazil of an architectural and urbanistic thought and practice”…

“You are among those who, in this century, contributed to invent and build a Brazil that becomes modern without ceasing to be Brazilianl Brasil de un pensamiento y una práctica arquitectónica y urbanística”…

Manifestations like this from the Power, sincere and respectful, knowing the person, contribute to form a tradition and make a society great. They help answer the two previous questions.

Because Lucio, indeed, built a way of thinking that opened doors to a culture.

Óscar Tenreiro Degwitz, Architect.
Venezuela, juny 2009
Entre lo Cierto y lo Verdadero

Óscar Tenreiro Degwitz

Es un arquitecto venezolano, nacido en 1939, Premio Nacional de Arquitectura de su país en 2002-2003, profesor de Diseño Arquitectónico por más de treinta años en la Universidad Central de Venezuela, quien paralelamente con su ejercicio ha mantenido ya por años presencia en la prensa de su país en un esfuerzo de comunicación hacia la gente en general de los puntos de vista del arquitecto acerca de los más diversos temas, entre los cuales figuran los agudos problemas políticos de una sociedad como la venezolana. Tenreiro practica así lo que el llama el “pensamiento desde y hacia la arquitectura”, insistiendo en que lo hace como arquitecto en ejercicio, para escapar de los estereotipos y cautelas propios de la “crítica arquitectónica”. Respecto a la cual no oculta su desconfianza, que explica recurriendo al aforismo de Nietzsche sobre el crítico de arte “que ve el arte desde cerca sin llegar a tocarlo nunca”.

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