This unique work of architecture admirably introduces some of the ideas that were appreciated to the Brutalism of Sao Paulo: the internal/external void as a composition measure (magnifying the symbolic value of the work), the use of concrete big spans and overhangs (not necessarily designed to answer functional needs, but also as plastic resources) and the expression of a strong experimental will, aiming to create an architectural, sculptural and landscape landmark.
The small program occupies a horizontal, narrow and extended building, with its ground floor slightly elevated, its lower floor partially underground and an open upper terrace; internally the building is organized in half-levels laid out lengthwise; externally, slopes, ramps and stone retaining walls define levels that extend inside and beyond the building, configuring spaces that mix the public and private realms. It was recently restored and repainted white.
REVISTA ACRÓPOLE, n.282, p.181, Mai, 1962;
ZEIN, Ruth, A Arquitetura da Escola Paulista Brutalista, São Paulo e Porto Alegre, 2005, (Tese de Doutoramento) Faculdade de Arquitetura da Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul; p.108-9
CAD Design: Raphael Ferrari Wittmann
Model: Ludmila Cavalli and Paula Bejar
This significant piece of mid-century modern architecture was almost demolished some years ago and was saved by the vigilant efforts of local DOCOMOMO. As other Brutalist architecture examples, it suffers with the inglorious fame the trend acquired on behalf of its worst examples, and with the aid of rancorous historians - so that the best Brutalist examples cannot even be qualified as such, or else you may give cause to their destruction, instead of their preservation. Heroic Boston, Concrete Toronto, DOCOMOMO and other preservationist organizations still do not dare to qualify this ad other buildings with the until now taboo name. But yes: it is a Brutalist building, and a very good one, a regular, contextual city-centre office block, an early example of the structural façade solution whose variations will be explored in the 1960-70s, with V, W, Y columns or trellis beams, designed as transitional structural apparatus, meant to minimize the supports and open up the ground level into a more friendly public space. That in this case stretches to a nice pocket plaza – that would probably disappear if an 80-storey tower would be allowed to replace it. Hope not.
Available http://www.overcommaunder.com/heroic/project/blue-cross-blue-shield-building/ [acessed 09 December 2016]
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/03/07/arts/design/07rudo.html [acessed 09 December 2016]
Winner of an International competition, designed by a Finn architect and defining a new city center for Toronto in tune with the “civic centre” debates of that decade this ensemble could be chosen as an interesting early example of the possibilities of exposed concrete structures to create significant public and governmental facilities, mingling an adequate dose of monumentality with the ability to create civic spaces by the arrangement of prismatic volumes around a plaza.
Perhaps it would not be an exaggerated proposition to connect this work with Brazil’s capital city, Brasilia, whose urban design competition had been won by Lucio Costa the previous year, and whose first monumental buildings were being designed and published by Oscar Niemeyer, soon constructed and inaugurated in 1960. Both have certainly approximate but distinct compositional strategies, but it is possible some comparison with Brasilia’s National Congress building, besides the coincidence of the double towers plus cupolas. And perhaps Revell’s design carry some other traces of genetic information from Niemeyer’s 1950’s works, as from the gentle curves of Ibirapuera Park’s marquise in São Paulo, to name one of the possibilities; it’s just a speculation, but not a completely misled one. The point is, at the 1950’s there was an important, if unrecognized dialog among architects from south to north, from east to west of the planet, also possible since the technological characteristics of every construction site were not as sharp as they had became from then on.
MCCLELLAND, Michael; STEWART, Graeme, Concrete Toronto A guidebook to concrete architecture from the fifties to the seventies, Ontario, Coach House Books and E.R.A. Architects, 2007, p. 78-81
Instead of praising this magnificent work or describing this very well known building, it may be interesting to how pioneer Brutalist buildings tend to be considered as leading a “local” architectural school. As for example:
“The Richards Medical Research Laboratory is considered one of the most significant buildings in modern American architecture. It was the pivotal project in the career of Louis Kahn and transformed him from an influential theoretical architect to one of international importance. Beginning with the Richards Laboratory, Kahn evolved a style of design that emphasized the use of heavy masonry construction, structural innovation and building volume, in contrast to the thin, steel-and-glass image of the International style. In the 1960s this approach, used by many locally based and trained architects, was referred to as the Philadelphia School.”
The paradoxical thing is that, almost the same or some very similar variation of this words are being historically used to qualify a São Paulo School, a Israeli School, a South African School, a Toronto Concrete School and so on, neither of them using the name “Brutalist”. Sometimes because the British guys, who claimed a precedence that the dates and facts do not sanction, had already hijacked the tag. Or else because local critics truly believed that they had in hands a restricted, exclusively local manifestation. Which in many cases was even used to establish some kind of “local identity”.Something really looks like paradoxical once one compares the dates and evident similarities and so reveals that Brutalist Connections do exist, regardless the fact that it still lacks a proper explanation.
GALLERY, John, Philadelphia Architecture A Guide to the City, Pennsylvania, First Paul Dry Books Edition, 2009, p.132
At his first constructed high-rise tower, the Promontory Apartments at Chicago (1946-1949), Mies Van der Rohe uses reinforced concrete structure with bricks closing, and a T shaped plan - although the published photos preferably show a frontal view suggesting a high and slender regular tower. As it happens with all MVDR American works this solution was also widely considered as a model, its images acquiring a hugely influential role all over the world and certainly on Latin American architects. Formally elegant, constructively wise and displaying a locally available technology of exposed materials, it appealed to the period’s mood for a “moral attitude” on architecture.
This very elegant early version of this typology combines other types of closing materials perhaps with a hint of Modernist Brazilian architecture of the Carioca School influence plus Corbusian tones, as with the external staircases counterpoint with the relatively slender and lengthy residential block with its two almost blind narrow façades.
First Municipality Prize Category C, 1959; IV São Paulo Bienale Prize 1957; VII Pan-American Architects Congress Prize 1957
PETRINA, Alberto, Buenos Aires Guia de Arquitectura, Buenos Aires, Sevilla, 1994, p.129