The erotic programme described by Pampulha became part of fashionable architectural taste. In the private realm, Brazil’s wealthy commissioned an enormous variety of modern houses from the 1930s onwards, many of which have since become iconic. The range, variety and quality of these houses is as high as anywhere in the same period. 

There was no systematic programme in Brazil, but the range and quality of the experiments bear comparison with the 34 Case Study Houses, built on the west coast of the United States between 1945 and 1966. As with the Case Study Houses, the best Brazilian houses often experimented with new forms of living, pulling out what were previously private functions – for example, sleeping and cooking – and making them central to the life of the house, rather than hiding them away. In Brazil, experimentation in housing tended to address questions of class. For the Paulista architect Vilanova Artigas, the private house was envisaged as an attack on class boundaries on the family level, by making domestic work a central part of the house’s activity, rather than having it sequestered away somewhere private, as in the Sao Paulo house he built for himself in 1948–9. Joaquim Guedes’s Casa da Cunha Lima (1958) does the same thing. For Lina Bo Bardi, the private house could be a means of developing a new, modern, sexual politics, providing, for example, a comfortable and appropriate frame for a professional woman to live alone. For Niemeyer, the private house is, inevitably, a way to try out a variety of new spaces to frame leisure and pleasure.

The most celebrated example is the architect’s own Casa das Canoas (1952). For Lauro Cavalcanti, this is nothing less than ‘one of the most beautiful modern houses in the world’. He continues:
At the centre of the composition is a great rock, around which is developed the house and the pool . . . the flat roof links interior and exterior spaces, establishing a rich dialogue with the exuberant landscape of the Carioca sea and mountains. In this project Niemeyer resolves two of the great problems of glass houses: the invasion of sunlight and of the sight and sensation of excessive exposure to the night with an illuminated interior and dark exterior . . . bedrooms located in basement, protected from curious eyes, with access by means of a stair carved in the rock.
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