But first we should look more closely at the intellectual context that makes possible this sophisticated and nuanced engagement with the past. One figure in particular stands out, Lucio Costa (1902–1998), born in Toulon (France) and educated in Newcastle, Montreux and finally Rio de Janeiro, where he graduated as an architect in 1924 from the Escola de Belas Artes. Costa soon established a partnership with Warchavchik, and in 1930, only six years after graduating, became the director of the Escola de Belas Artes. His reign there was controversial, and he was forced to resign after only a year.

Like Gilberto Freyre, the sociologist whose work was introduced in the last chapter, Costa came from a privileged background, and was both well educated and travelled by the time he began to have influence. Also like Freyre, he combined progressive political views with a fundamentally conservative approach to culture. His future Brazil had a strong connection with the society and architecture of the colonial past, while at the same time being a declaration of a break with it. This curious, even paradoxical, position explains much of the character of Brazilian Modernism.

The year before the foundation of SPHAN, Costa had published what amounted to a manifesto of modern architecture, ‘Razoes da Nova Arquitetura’ (Roots of Modern Architecture) in the journal Revista da Directoria de Engenharia da pdf. It is a long and difficult article, simultaneously high-flown and circumlocutory, with a somewhat solipsistic character, too: as much as he was writing for an audience, Costa was also writing to himself, clarifying his own change of position as regards the modern: from being closely identified with neo-classicism, Costa now positions himself as a Modernist. But his understanding of Modernism is based explicitly on an understanding of what might be useful from the historical past.
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