Live Like This!

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The planning and construction time of the exemplary Pedregulho
public housing project in the São Cristóvão district of Rio de Janeiro
(1946 – 1954) was also the time of the progressive government of
Juscelino Kubitschek (1945 – 1964), whose modernisation efforts also,
for a short time, put Brazil at the focus of international attention
with regard to the post-war architecture debate.
Siegfried Gidion nominated the housing project for the 1st
prize of the 1st International Biennial of São Paulo in 1951; architects
such as Max Bill and Walter Gropius saw the project as an exemplary
model not only for Brazil but for the whole world.
It was built in a close co-operation of Affonso Reidy’s team of
architects and the department of public housing of Rio headed by
Carmen Portinho, whose planning experience, having been involved
in the reconstruction destroyed cities in England, had an important
influence on the conception and implementation.
In an area of 50.000 square metres, the plan included four apartment
blocks, a primary school, a health centre, a kindergarten, a laundry, a
fitness centre, a swimming pool, and a market for the future inhabitants
as a socially coherent housing zone, all of which – but for one
residential block – were actually built. Responsibility for design of
the outdoor areas was given to Roberto Burle Marx, whose excellent
quality in designing parks for government and culture buildings
received international acclaim.
The most distinctive element in the housing complex is a curved 260-
metre-long block with 272 apartments that perfectly traces the slopes
of the terrain; resting on pillars and arranged at two levels – interrupted
by a public viewing and services area – the complex is visible
from afar as an accomplished example of modern architecture.
While the architectural structures still provide a functioning
living and housing environment for the inhabitants today, with the
exception of certain necessary renovation measures which the local
authorities are being called on to finance, the social and political
ideals, that were in the beginning intimately linked to the architecture,
have now become detached from the architecture and planning
and taken a conflict-laden turn, whose mistakes, corruption and failure
still “symbolically” stick to the architecture and circulate as
images of the ruins of modernism.
The seven-part photographic work recombines pictures of this
distinctive building complex to create new architectural constellations
of space that portray the formal qualities of the architecture without
obfuscating the traces of wear. It contrasts the modern use as social
functioning with the simplifying pictorial ruins that symbolise the
failure of political and social concepts.