If during the years 1930–60 Brazil held a pre-eminent position in the field of architecture, it is equally true that post-1960 it faded. It is a commonplace in international architectural discourse that after Brasilia ‘nothing happened’, in the words of Zein; it is equally a commonplace inside Brazil that architecture post-1960 is clouded by shame and doubt, a function of a political situation that placed many if not most architects under suspicion.

That some of Brazil’s architecture can and should be recovered is one of the projects of this blog. But equally, its disappearance from the international architectural scene was real, and there is no doubt that for much of the second half of the twentieth century in architectural terms Brazil was a peripheral place, largely forgotten. Since the late 1990s, that has undoubtedly changed. As Fernando Luiz Lara, a Brazilian critic, has noted, Brazil has suddenly returned to the pages of international journals.

Citing the Avery Index of journal publications, he describes how there were 404 articles on Brazil during the 1990s, almost as many as during the previous 90 years. The same index would show continued growth and interest through the first decade of the twenty-first century, with such events as Niemeyer’s Serpentine Gallery Pavilion in London in 2003 (his first building in England, and his first in Europe for two decades) and Paulo Mendes da Rocha’s receipt of the Pritzker Prize for architecture in 2006 causing minor sensations.

The choice of Niemeyer, already awarded a RIBA Gold Medal in 1999, to address the annual conference of that organization in 2007 (albeit by a TV link from Rio, and via an interpreter) was further confirmation of the changed status of Brazilian architecture in the world. With the possible exception of Mendes da Rocha, Brazilian architects were not, for the most part, building abroad. But the project of Brazilian Modernism can certainly be said to have been rehabilitated internationally, up to and including the somewhat toxic and controversial project of Brasilia.

Why and how this happened has two likely causes. First is the return of architectural Modernism itself during the 1990s in the developed world after a period of stylistic eclecticism. Modernism is undoubtedly backed in fashion, especially in the Anglophone world, if not as a mode for domestic architecture, then certainly as the mode for public buildings. But its return has seen it stripped of any social project; it is pure style, mostly for privileged clients, a means of connoting fashionableness through slick surfaces.
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