The first large-scale exercise of this erotically charged Modernist architecture materialized outside Brazil, however, in the form of the Brazilian Pavilion at the New York World’s Fair of 1939–40. This, the first complete collaboration between Niemeyer and Costa, was located in the section of the fair given over to national pavilions. The two architects arrived in New York in 1938 and took up space in the office of Wallace Harrison, who would later coordinate the work with Niemeyer on the headquarters building for the United Nations.

The building itself, built in just five months, was a small, three-storey structure built on an l-plan, framing a small lake to the rear. Raised partly on pilotis, and with an unusual brise-soleil on the front facade like a miniature version of the system used on the MES, the pavilion was dominated by a wide, curving pedestrian ramp that scooped up visitors to the first floor. From here, they passed through a generous, curving entrance hall with a small bar serving coffee, to a series of stands showing off Brazilian commercial products: coffee, nuts, chocolate, tobacco, cotton and palm oil. Elsewhere, there was a formal exhibition hall with paintings by Portinari, a magnificent curving bar specializing in caipirinhas and a circular dance-hall.

All the pavilions’ purposes were propagandistic, namely the promotion of trade and culture and good relations with the United States. But the Brazilian Pavilion represented this soft diplomacy brief with an exuberant and decidedly erotic building. It was full of curves, up to that point unimaginable in a Modernist building, certainly in New York (the near-contemporary MOMA by Philip Goodwin and Edward Stone was a piece of graph paper by contrast, rectilinear and more or less two-dimensional). It was profoundly conscious of the body of the visitor, leading him or her around the building, and providing invitations to pause or linger. In this regard, it encouraged visitors to look at each other as much as the products on display: the sinuous mezzanine above the main hall provided a voyeuristic pause in the programme for the visitor to look down at others, unseen. And it provided plenty of spaces for simple pleasures – the bar and dance floor were not secondary spaces, but central to the programme. The pavilion defined Brazil, in other words, as a sensuous place above all, responsible for the production of pleasurable goods for world-wide consumption (coffee, cigarettes, chocolate), and populated by a pleasure- seeking population. The pavilion’s starting point may have been the Modernist language defined by Le Corbusier, but the sensuality of the programme as realized helped define a distinctive, and decidedly erotic, Brazilian form of Modernism.
edit post


0 Response to 'The Brazilian Pavilion at the New York World’s Fair'

Post a Comment