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Heritage Agencies and the Conservation of Brazilian Modern Masterpieces: A Partial Report

Abstract

Heritage agencies have been protecting modern architecture in Brazil since 1948, starting with Oscar Niemeyer’s Pampulha Chapel. So far 75 modern works have been listed mostly because of their artistic value. Listing prevents demolition. Unfortunately, it does not ensure proper conservation, and many interventions have disfigured works of architecture listed as modern masterpieces. Among those tolerated by the Brazilian heritage agencies, an early one is the roofing of the balconies of Oscar Niemeyer’s Ouro Preto Grand Hotel. Among those approved were the construction of theatres diverging from those designed but unexecuted at the time of the listing, and renovations associated with the introduction or updating of air conditioning systems. The former included one by Niemeyer himself, at his Ibirapuera Park complex, and another at Affonso Eduardo Reidy’s Museum of Modern Art of Rio de Janeiro. The latter included the Pampulha Dance Hall, two Ibirapuera Park Pavilions, and the Planalto Palace. The paper analyses these retrofits along with the restoration project of Reidy’s Pedregulho Housing Estate, and discusses the connections of the heritage agencies’ stands regarding these interventions with scientism and the traditions of the conservation field. It suggests a bias of the agencies toward affirmation of historical values and celebration of picturesque disorder, and defends the need for their reorientation towards affirmation of the modern compositional logic.

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Correspondence to Carlos Eduardo Dias Comas.

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Dias Comas, C.E. Heritage Agencies and the Conservation of Brazilian Modern Masterpieces: A Partial Report. Built Heritage 2, 35–49 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1186/BF03545692

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Keywords

  • modern architecture
  • heritage agency
  • Brazil
  • conservation case studies