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Kathryn O'Rourke and Ramón Vargas

(b Mexico City, Mar 29, 1915; d Mexico City, May 25, 1959).

Mexican architect, theorist, and writer, of Japanese descent. The son of a Japanese ambassador in Mexico, he studied philosophy, espousing neo-Kantianism and becoming politically a socialist. He became a supporter of Functionalism, with its emphasis on the social applications of architecture, and was a founder, with Enrique Yañez, of the Unión de Arquitectos Socialistas (1938), helping to draw up a socialist theory of architecture. He was one of the most active participants in the Unión and attempted to put his socialist theory into practice on two unexecuted projects in the same year: the building for the Confederación de Trabajadores de México and the Ciudad Obrera de México, both with Enrique Guerrero and Raúl Cacho. Later, when Mexico opted for a developmental policy, Arai became a standard-bearer for nationalism in architecture. He re-evaluated traditional building materials, such as tree trunks, bamboo, palm leaves, and lianas, using them in a plan for a country house that was adapted to the warm, damp climate of the Papaloapan region. The building of the Ciudad Universitaria, Mexico City, gave him his greatest architectural opportunity when he designed the Frontones (...


Roberto Pontual

(b Fortaleza, May 26, 1922; d Paris, Oct 6, 1967).

Brazilian painter. In the first half of the 1940s, while still in his native state of Ceará, he was very active in the introduction of modernist ideas. In 1945 he moved to Rio de Janeiro and in 1946 to Paris, where he spent most of the rest of his life. In Paris, where he studied at the Ecole Supérieure de Beaux-Arts and at the Académie de la Grande Chaumière, he first painted landscapes and portraits (e.g. Self-portrait, 1947; Rio de Janeiro, Gilberto Chateaubriand priv. col.) that combined elements from Surrealism and Expressionism. He later adopted a gestural abstraction that maintained its links with the outside world through analogies established in poetic titles (e.g. Flowing like a Waterfall, 1964; Rio de Janeiro, Roberto Marinho priv. col.). At the beginning of his stay in France he was briefly part of an informal association with two other artists sharing a similar artistic language, ...


(b Guadalajara, Mar 9, 1902; d Mexico City, Nov 22, 1988).

Mexican architect. Recipient of the Pritzker Prize, he was the most celebrated of Mexico’s modern architects, known for his regionally inflected designs. Born to a wealthy, devoutly Catholic family, he earned his degree in civil engineering from Guadalajara’s Escuela Libre de Ingenieros in 1923, and soon after completed his course in architecture (though the school closed before his degree could be awarded). On trips to Europe and the USA in 1924–1925, 1930, and 1931 he was impressed by the Alhambra and by the work of Le Corbusier; he also made important contacts with muralist José Clemente Orozco, Architectural Record editor Lawrence Kocher, French author, artist, and architect Ferdinand Bac (1859–1952), and Le Corbusier himself, whose lectures he attended in Paris in 1931. Barragán is best known for a small group of gardens, houses, and subdivisions built around Mexico City between 1945 and 1976 that blend Modernist minimalism with brilliant colors and elements drawn from Mexican colonial and vernacular buildings. Called ...


Felipe Chaimovich and Roberto Conduru

Brazilian art after 1980 developed a growing dialogue with international contemporary art, sometimes challenging the latter’s hegemony. The revision of constructive modernism and its criticism in Brazilian art since the 1960s were at stake when young artists faced the globalization of the art world during the 1990s. During the 2000s, a more political concern reinforced collective alliances.

In the early 1980s, Brazil experienced the euphoria of the waning moments of dictatorship, which lasted from 1964 to 1985, and the beginning of a new democratic regime. Dictatorship had compromised the collective project of the avant-garde of the 1960s, as advocated by Hélio Oiticica in the catalog text of the group exhibition Nova Objetividade Brasileira (Brazilian New Objectivity) at the Museu de Arte Moderna of Rio de Janeiro in 1967. Brazilian New Objectivity aimed at a transformation of the national culture by means of experimental art, but dictatorship had prohibited group meetings since ...


Sylvia Ficher

(b Toulon, Feb 27, 1902; d Rio de Janeiro, July 13, 1998).

Brazilian architect, urban planner, architectural historian, teacher and writer of French birth. Son of Brazilian parents, he moved to Brazil in 1917 and entered the Escola Nacional de Belas Artes, Rio de Janeiro, graduating as an architect in 1923. From 1922 he worked with Fernando Valentim, adopting the style favoured by the Traditionalist movement, which took its inspiration from 18th-century Brazilian colonial architecture in an attempt to develop a national style. He designed several houses and won two important competitions, both with neo-colonial designs: the Brazilian Pavilion at the International Exhibition (1925) in Philadelphia, and the headquarters of the Argentine Embassy (1928), Rio de Janeiro (neither of which was built).

In December 1930, following the installation of the new revolutionary government in November, Costa was appointed to direct the Escola Nacional de Belas Artes in Rio and to reform its teaching system. At first his nomination was seen as a victory for the supporters of the neo-colonial style over the academics, but Costa broke with both and created a course, given by specially invited Modernist teachers including ...


Carlos A. C. Lemos

revised by Alana Hernandez


(b Rio de Janeiro, Oct 6, 1928).

Brazilian architect. Fragelli studied Architecture at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro and graduated in 1952. After completing his studies, he went to work for M. M. M. Roberto, one of the largest modern architectural firms in Brazil. Fragelli adopted some design elements brought up by the Roberto brothers such as the idea to develop structures that transcended the static forms of early functionalism. However, once he formed his own practice in São Paulo in 1961, Fragelli retained an individual approach to design, straying away from the popular Brutalist style of João B. Vilanova Artigas that dominated São Paulo at the time.

Fragelli’s work was characterized by his skillful use of materials such as reinforced concrete, brick, timber, and glass and by the delicate detail of his finishes. His best-known works include several stations on the northern section of the São Paulo Metro, most notably the Ponte Pequeña Metro Station (...


Rebecca Arnold

[née Pacanins y Nino, Maria Carolina Josefina ]

(b Caracas, Jan 8, 1939).

Venezuelan fashion designer, active also in the USA (see fig.). While Herrera’s designs always contain elements of current fashion, her work is more about the cultivation of a sleek international style that is classically feminine. Her upbringing amongst the élite, leisured classes of South America encouraged her to view clothing as a visual expression of good taste and ease. Rather than following trends, her designs tend to favour clean lines, with a focus on detail.

Herrera was brought up in an environment where clothes were bought from Parisian couturiers, such as Cristobal Balenciaga, or made by skilled local dressmakers. In each case, craftsmanship and structure were important, combined with a desire to acknowledge wealthy women’s lifestyles within the design of each garment. Herrera therefore developed an appreciation for refined design skills and good fit early in her life, which was to prove crucial to her own evolution as a designer. Combined with this awareness of fashion’s central role in the life of wealthy women was her cosmopolitan outlook. This was nurtured by regular trips to Europe and North America, which provided inspiration through visits to galleries and museums, and gave her an understanding of the international lifestyle of many women of her class. The need of these women to be dressed stylishly and appropriately for diverse events from tennis matches to cocktail parties or office work in a city shaped Herrera’s outlook, as much as her appreciation of art and culture....


Susan Fisher Sterling

(b São Paulo, Dec 2, 1896; d São Paulo, Nov 6, 1964).

Brazilian painter. Malfatti is acknowledged as the artist who brought European and American modernism to Brazil in 1917 and was a key figure in the Semana de Arte Moderna in São Paulo in 1922. The daughter of immigrants—her father was an Italian engineer and her mother was of German descent—Malfatti first studied at Mackenzie College in São Paulo before leaving for Berlin in 1912, where she learnt about German Expressionism from Lovis Corinth and Bischoff Culn at the Lewin Funcke Academy while also attending the influential fourth international Sonderbund exhibition of modern art in Cologne. Although she returned to Brazil in 1914, she left once again for New York in 1915, where she studied at the Independent School of Art with Homer Boss (1882–1956) until May 1916. Boss was extremely important in encouraging Malfatti’s early experimentation with Expressionism, resulting in important works such as O Farol (‘The Lighthouse’, ...


Giulio V. Blanc

(García )

(b Havana, Oct 31 1897; d Havana, Feb 1, 1969).

Cuban painter and teacher. He is generally considered to be the initiator of modernism in Cuba. From 1910 he studied at the Academia de S Alejandro in Havana and taught elementary drawing there until 1925, when he went to Paris. There he formed part of the Latin American artistic and literary Grupo de Montparnasse and abandoned academic painting. On his return to Cuba in 1927 he participated in the Asociación de Pintores y Escultores exhibition in Havana, which marked the official beginning of modern painting in Cuba. As a teacher and avant-garde painter he had a considerable influence on painters of his own and succeeding generations.

Víctor Manuel reconciled Parisian modernism with traditional Cuban themes and elements in order to create works that were at once culturally specific and cosmopolitan. Tropical Gypsy (1927; Havana, Mus. N. B.A.) is his best-known painting, referring to Gauguin and modern European art while seeking to portray a national icon, the ...


Ramón Alfonso Méndez Brignardello

(b Bilbao, 1901; d Chile, 1976).

Chilean architect and teacher of Spanish birth. He moved to Chile as a child and studied architecture at the Universidad de Chile in Santiago from 1917 to 1922. In 1927 he won the first architectural competition to be organized in Chile, for the Chilean Pavilion at the Exposición Ibero-Americana 1929. He visited Europe in 1928–31 and absorbed the influence of Rationalism, the Bauhaus and other modern developments. In 1931 he became Profesor de Taller (workshop teacher) at the Escuela de Arquitectura of the Universidad de Chile. He became its director in 1932 and reformed the teaching programme. In 1936 he won a competition for the Escuela de Derecho building (completed 1938) in the Universidad de Chile. Equal to the best architecture of its time worldwide, the building is Rationalist with expressionistic elements in the main curved façade and well-articulated south elevation. After such projects as the Escuela Militar in Santiago (...


Carlos A. C. Lemos

(Machado )

(b Paris, Feb 23, 1904; d 1992).

Brazilian architect and teacher. He graduated in 1932 from the Escola Nacional de Belas Artes, Rio de Janeiro, where he participated in the reforms (1930–31) of Lúcio Costa when Modernist teachers including Gregori Warchavchik were introduced. He then worked for a construction company in Rio and designed some houses and blocks of flats. In 1936 he entered private practice and joined the team that developed the design for the Ministry of Education and Health (1936–45; now the Palácio da Cultura; see Brazil, fig.) in Rio with Le Corbusier; led by Lúcio Costa, it also included Carlos Leão (1906–82), Affonso Eduardo Reidy, Ernani Vasconcelos (1912–87) and Oscar Niemeyer. This building introduced Le Corbusier’s rationalist principles of Modernism to Brazil, influencing the work of all its young architects thereafter. Moreira, however, was the only one who did not subsequently move away from Le Corbusier’s original postulates, becoming perhaps their most representative exponent in Brazil. He continued to use simple, prismatic shapes, never accepting the free structural forms developed by Oscar Niemeyer at Pampulha (...


Julio Roberto Katinsky

(b Rio de Janeiro, Dec 15, 1907; d Dec 5, 2012).

Brazilian architect. An internationally acclaimed doyen of the Modern Movement, he developed an intensely expressive and often controversial style in his large volume of executed work that was extremely influential in Latin America, particularly in Brazil, in the three decades from 1935. He employed an often exuberant aesthetic formalism, and his lyrical use of reinforced concrete was rivalled only by the later work of Le Corbusier.

He studied architecture at the Escola Nacional de Belas Artes, Rio de Janeiro (1929–34), where he was influenced by the Modernist teaching introduced by Lúcio Costa during his reforms in 1930–31. After graduating, Niemeyer worked in the studio of Costa and Carlos Azevedo Leão (1906–71) and later, for a short period, in the Serviço do Patrimônio Histórico e Artístico Nacional (SPHAN), also with Costa; the latter’s sensitivity to Brazilian context and culture, which led him to admire the work of Le Corbusier rather than the European Functionalists, was an early influence on Niemeyer. In ...


Louise Noelle

(b Mexico City, July 6, 1905; d Mexico City, Jan 18, 1982).

Mexican architect, painter and teacher. He studied architecture at the Universidad Nacional de México and qualified as an architect in December 1935. Among his teachers were José Villagrán and Guillermo Zárraga, the latter of whom in particular exerted a powerful rationalist influence on O’Gorman’s early development. This influence was further strengthened in 1924, when O’Gorman discovered the writings of Le Corbusier. His subsequent membership of the Communist Party cemented his adherence to a functionalist aesthetic and resulted in designs for a number of houses executed in an austere, almost featureless style that nevertheless remained faithful to Le Corbusier’s ideas on plasticity. These included the Casa Cecil O’Gorman (1929), the Casa y Estudio Diego Rivera y Frida Kahlo, built for the artists in 1930–32; and his own house (1931–2), all in the residential district of San Angel in Mexico City.

The innovative approach taken in these works provoked considerable adverse comment, but it impressed ...


Ricardo Pau-Llosa

(b Camagüey, Jan 24, 1895; d Havana, Feb 19, 1949).

Cuban painter and draughtsman. He studied briefly at the Academia de S Alejandro in Havana under Leopoldo Romañach (1862–1951) and became a notable figure in Cuba’s first generation of modernists, who broke with the 19th-century academic style during the 1920s in a search for a national identity. His monochromatic paintings, dominated by white and ochre, are the least Cuban in subject-matter of the work produced by this generation, although ironically he was the only one who never left Cuba.

Ponce de León worked primarily in oil on canvas but also made pencil drawings and pastels. He led a bohemian life racked by alcoholism and poverty, dying of tuberculosis. His principal subject-matter was the figure, but he painted some landscapes bordering on pure abstraction, for example Fish and Landscape (Havana, Mus. N. B.A.). His paintings are melancholic, as, for example, the figure painting Tuberculosis (1934; Havana, Mus. N. B.A.), and embody a Cuban fatalism, which is often eclipsed by the sensuous clichés of the tropics. Ponce de León was the founder of ...


Sylvia Ficher

Brazilian architectural partnership. It was formed by three brothers, Marcelo Roberto (b Rio de Janeiro, 30 May 1908; d Rio de Janeiro, 17 July 1964), Mílton Roberto (b Rio de Janeiro, 30 March 1914; d Rio de Janeiro, 11 July 1953) and Maurício Roberto (b Rio de Janeiro, 20 Feb 1921; d Rio de Janeiro, 3 Nov 1997). All three studied architecture at the Escola Nacional de Belas Artes, Rio de Janeiro, where Lúcio Costa’s reforms of 1930–31 introduced Modernist teachers, such as Gregori Warchavchik, and the principles of avant-garde European architecture, including Functionalism and the Rationalist ideas of Le Corbusier.

Marcelo Roberto graduated in 1930, and in 1931, after a study trip to Europe, he opened an office as M. Roberto; his design for the Xavier House, shown at the first Salão de Arquitetura Tropical, in 1933, revealed his Modernist approach. In ...


Roberto Pontual

Series of events held at the Teatro Municipal in São Paulo from 11 to 18 February 1922, which marked the arrival of modernism in Brazil. The year 1922 was the centenary of Brazilian independence and a time of economic prosperity centred in São Paulo. The Semana marked the cultural emergence of a Brazilian bourgeoisie, with financial support from enlightened businessmen and politicians such as Paulo Prado, Oscar Rodrigues Alves and Alberto Penteado. The antecedents of the Semana date back to a startling exhibition of works by the São Paulo painter Anita Malfatti (1896–1964), held in São Paulo in December 1917. She had studied in Berlin and New York between 1914 and 1916, and her paintings were practically the first examples of Expressionism to be seen in Brazil, provoking the initial break with weak academic traditions inherited from the 19th century. Inspired by the polemical slogans if not by the art of Marinetti’s Futurism, the scandalous Semana of ...


Ludovico C. Koppmann

(b La Plata, May 16, 1889; d Buenos Aires, April 7, 1966).

Argentine engineer and architect. He graduated as a civil engineer from the Universidad de Buenos Aires in 1914 and then worked for an oil company in Patagonia (1918–20) and, throughout the 1920s, as a land surveyor. He helped with the studies for Le Corbusier’s master-plan Les Grands Travaux de Buenos Aires (1929; unexecuted). Vilar subsequently established a large practice in collaboration with his brother Carlos Vilar, and he was among the early proponents of Rationalism and internationalism in Argentina. His early works include a minimal housing system first used at the former premises of the Hindu Club (1931; destr.) at Don Torcuato in Buenos Aires province; several large blocks of flats, such as those for the Nordiska Kompaniet (1935; altered) and those on the Avenida Libertador (1935), both in Buenos Aires; the Banco Holandés Unido (1935; altered), Buenos Aires; and a series of private houses at San Isidro, the most notable (...


Regina Maria Prosperi Meyer

(b Odessa, April 2, 1896; d São Paulo, July 27, 1972).

Brazilian architect, writer and teacher of Russian birth. He studied architecture at the University of Odessa and the Scuola Superiore di Architettura, Rome, graduating in 1920, and he worked in Rome for the classicist architect Marcello Piacentini before moving to São Paulo in 1923 and entering private practice. In 1925 he published an article that became a manifesto for modern architecture in Brazil; its emphasis on the industrialization of construction, particularly of standard components for low-cost housing, foreshadowed the theories of CIAM, of which he was a member (1929–42). Warchavchik was responsible for the first modern houses in Brazil; they were functionalist designs and included his own house (1927–8), some low-cost housing (1929) and the ‘Modernistic House’ (1930), all in São Paulo. The latter, built for exhibition, introduced modern architecture to a wider audience; it was a Cubist design, complete with furniture, lighting and decoration, and it contained works by avant-garde artists such as ...