Arquivo para 11 de abril de 2010

Thinking about a metallic age, by João Diniz

The timeline, the human eras

Are told by iron and stone voices

The Greek word metal means searching, prospecting

Sounding millenniums of conquests, discoveries.

In the nature, gold, silver, platinum, mercury and copper are pure

The others were rusty mysteries at first

Such as bauxite and hematite that are refined into aluminum and iron.

In the fires of 10000 years, tin and lead

Were soft metals that announced the Copper Age

The first of the metal ages that followed the Neolithic.

In 6000 BC ovens, copper tools and weapons emerge

And the idea of metallurgy, in Persia, Turkey, Mesopotamia.

Copper plus tin open up the Bronze Age in 2000 BC

Armors, spears, fights, Odyssey, Iliad and warriors.

The two metals make history, but in 1500 BC they are scarce.

There comes the Iron Age, a new stage, the second millennium.

High temperature hematite and pyrite make iron

Coming not only from meteors, it crosses the Middle Age to

The Gothic era, the Renaissance in the forges of monks and artisans.

Iron combined with carbon in low percentages turns into Steel.

And from the pig iron, smelting iron ore with coke and limestone

In a blast furnace, in 1855 we started in England

To produce steel in large scale, there comes the Steel Age,

The age we all live in.

In the times of mid-19th century, the world was really changing.

Machines, stations, industries, railways, engines, workers

Reinvented the history where iron is the primary agent.

Engines and fossil fuels are now used in large scale,

Ancient regenerative cycles of nature are broken

Life is transformed by an endless progress vision.

The new construction logic of the economy of means

Seems to resume the Gothic era (1) and emphasizes structural geometry.

The new optimism, fascination and amazement were displayed

In world’s fairs, factories, bridges and railway stations

Building new metropolises, New York, London, Berlin

And symbolic works, Crystal Palace (2), Eiffel Tower (3), Brooklyn Bridge (4),

Echoed in the odes of Manhattan, Mayakovski and Lorca

Reflected in the Parisian experiences by the philosopher Benjamin.

Times of changes arriving resolute to the 20th century

And invented the modern architecture by eliminating excesses,

Seeking essences, the machine house, the new spirit.

The dogma of Less is More by Mies van der Rohe (5)

From a cultural perspective of construction industrialization,

And in the works by Buckminster Fuller (6) in the search for lightness

And nature lessons that inspire the human ingenuity.

Legacies that have been construed and translated ever since

By architects and builders from all over the world

In Brazil, many traditional works were already in free structure:

The Xingu Indian hut (7), primitive wattle and daub cottages,

Metal sheet houses in the Amazon, the colonial architecture (8).

We also had our first cast iron stations (9),

Railroads, industries, theaters, large spans, bridges…

The Brazilian modern architecture, skilful in the use of reinforced concrete,

And that amazed the world in the mid-20th century,

Also had works in steel, with own concepts and images.

Steel structures are in the buildings of Brasília,

And then became a part of our recent history in works by

Niemeyer (10), Lúcio Costa (11), Sérgio Bernardes (12), Éolo Maia (13).

At the same time steel is strengthened in new issues,

In a moment that the Earth is more concerned than ever

About its health, future, survival, sustainability,

Metal works emerge as a consistent alternative for

Lightness, transportation, disassembly and recycling.

Iron ores, steel & iron plants, and a recent constructive tradition

Make steel an important inspiration for the national architecture.

New experiences and distinguished authors emerge every day

Disclosing multiple possibilities and systems for the material.

Works by João Filgueiras Lima, nicknamed Lelé (14), are good examples

Of how technology and the Brazilian culture can demonstrate

Our times their vitality, creative and ecological spirit.

Present and future are challenging more than ever

In the many alternatives that are posed to architects

Through the responsibilities that are now in our hands.

The works presented in the book Steel Life

Are the metallic portions of our architectural production.

In Minas Gerais, iron is in the mountains,

The steel production and the thoughts by many professionals

Contaminate us with such a metallic poem

And generate job and reflection opportunities.

The projects and buildings presented here are organized

By their main relations with steel and its use.

Therefore EC or Complete Structures are works that adopt

The metal as single and main supporting element

Resulting as a conceptual product aesthetically aligned to the option.

EH or Hybrid Structures are projects joining together

Metal construction and masonry construction

Responding to demands from each side of the buildings.

In those cases, steel elements are placed

Where transparency and lightness are most required.

AC or Citizen Steel refers to situations where steel

Generates community instances of integration and public use

Participating as an agent of urban dynamics

Or a delineator of the scenario and social transformations.

AA or Artistic Steel refers to cases where the material

Defines an object, not necessarily architectural

But participating as a sculptural or spatial element

Qualifying with surprise and culture a given environment.

Such projects and buildings respond to different demands,

Coming from specific clients, individual or corporate,

Or from public requirements where an urban administration

Generates and hires for a project situation we have to address.

There are also architectural contests and academic researches

Situations in which we are voluntarily involved

And we can investigate elements never tried before.

And, last, there are working situations that we embrace

With no specific demand or need, for the joy of doing it,

Or for the wide significance of the craft that is Architecture,

Or just to keep the flame burning up to the

Moment when a new problem is imposed for us to solve.

Now in the 21st century, that new stage of the Steel Age

In a parallel between art and the construction of a new time

We should refuse the Still Life

And with this material of our time search for living life

In the experiences and works in progress in our Steel Life.

Introduction text by João Diniz for his book Steel Life: metallic architecture

Editora JJCarol, São Paulo, 2010

The freedom of a versatile steel, by Roberto Segre

A foreword by Roberto Segre for the book STEEL LIFE

The use of steel in architecture is reaching its third century. The structural revolution started in the 19th century, in the advanced works by Gustav Eiffel and was consolidated with the proliferation of business skyscrapers in downtown Chicago. But the constructive elements – beams and columns – had not yet had an aesthetic significance, hidden as they were inside masonry boxes and decorated facades. Mies van der Rohe was the architect who accepted, prepared and disseminated the formal purity of the steel structure, which, combined with the glass transparency, has defined the typology of the light box – horizontal and vertical – used in houses and tall buildings along the 20th century. An extensive group of architects has been identified with the strict rationalism imposed by industrialized metal components – serial and normalized: among others, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, Craig Ellwood, I. M. Pei, Eero Saarinen, Arne Jacobsen. But, at the same time, the plastic possibilities of steel were evidenced and – just like reinforced steel – would allow for the conception of free, sculptural forms. The Russian constructivists were the first to associate steel with a new avant-garde aesthetics, based on the iconic images that would identify the advancements of socialism: they are the utopian fantasies by V. E. Tatlin, Ivan Leonidov and Ja. G. Chernikov.

The rigid simplicity of the box was left behind when new structural elements emerged, established by differentiated linear components and articulation knots, allowing for very large spans, basically developed by Buckminster Fuller and Konrad Wachsmann in the USA. The criticism about the anonymity of the International Style starts in the 1950’s with the English New Brutalism and emerges with the South Hunstanton steel structures by Peter & Alison Smithson. It was the beginning of a plastic experimentation continued up to the present days, in the works by Renzo Piano & Richard Rogers; Norman Foster; Nicholas Grimshaw; and whose formal and structural freedom may be noticed now at the dawn of the 21st century, with the inventions by Frank Gehry, Santiago Calatrava, and Herzog & de Meuron. We should also mention the “bird’s nest” Beijing 2008 Olympic Stadium as an icon of renewed aesthetics based on the versatility of the steel structure.

The works by João Diniz are inserted in such a creative dynamics. He belongs in the avant-garde group that suggested the redemption of the Minas Gerais architecture, as well as cultural and environmental identity, economically characterized by successive mining cycles, initially with gold in the colonial era, and in the 20th century with steel & iron. In architecture, such a new identity meant to use steel in contraposition to the predominance of the reinforced concrete as established by Oscar Niemeyer in works built in the state, especially in Belo Horizonte. The same way as we usually mention the Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo “schools”, now a movement emerges as the Minas Gerais “school”, led as from the 1970’s by architects such as Éolo Maia, Jô Vasconcellos, Humberto Serpa, Cid Horta, Álvaro Hardy & Mariza M. Coelho, Flávio Almada, Sylvio Emrich de Podestá, Gustavo Penna, João Diniz, among others. They have refused the technocratic language of the military regimen and the Niemeyer “style” associated to the political power of Juscelino Kubitschek; and they, instead, adopted Post-modernism as a restoring trend to uphold the freedom of expression. As a newcomer to the group, João Diniz was able to simultaneously relate his open sensitivity towards other cultural manifestations – drawing, photography, sculpture, music, and poetry – to the versatility of steel structures. The works presented in this book clearly show the multitude of ways opened up by the use of steel.

The sculptural possibilities of steel elements are quite visible in the pieces as presented in the Special Installation at the International Architecture Biennale in Sao Paulo, in 2003, at the Black Art Festival Portal, and in the street furniture at the Rio de Janeiro Street, closely relating such constructive essays to works by Amílcar de Castro and Franz Weissmann. On the other hand, the “Miesian” heritage is present in the Clube Campestre Locker Rooms and in the Fumec Principal’s Office; and the studies by Charles and Ray Eames in the fifties are recalled in the Casexp experimental dwelling project. The Querubins Gymnasium, with its large covered area, embodies the structural design of the first works by Norman Foster; as well as the Environmental Education Mobile Units seem to honor Buckminster Fuller.  The articulation between closed and open shapes, and the dialogue of different materials, allowing for integrating the transparencies of steel structures to the solidity of reinforced steel, masonry and wood, is developed in the urban scale, represented by the buildings Capri and Scala Workcenter; and adds character to the original and creative houses designed by Diniz: Eugênia, Marina, KS, Jorge and Serrana. Last, the formal and spatial innovations that identify the new century – with their free and flowing steel surfaces – emerge in the Grupo Corpo new site, in the Air Force Center for Integration and Adaptation (CIAAR) and in the Fiat Museum. The works evidence not only the inventive ability of João Diniz, but, and at the same time, his wish to understand and assimilate the renewing images of our times, evidencing his presence in the universe of Minas Gerais, Brazil and of the world at large. The anthropophagical theses by Oswald de Andrade are still present in the 21st century.

Roberto Segre

Rio de Janeiro, December 14, 2008.


Born in Milan, Italy (1934). Graduated from the Architecture and Town Planning University, Buenos Aires (1960), Doctor’s degree in Sciences and Arts, University of Havana, Cuba (1990), Doctor’s degree in Regional and Urban Planning, Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (1997). Senior and/or Visiting Professor in universities in Rio de Janeiro, Havana, New York, Houston, Los Angeles, Santo Domingo, and Lima. Delivered courses and lectures in universities from Latin America, USA, and Europe. Accepted a number of international awards for his books. Over 300 essays published on architecture and town planning in Latin America and the Caribbean; and more than 30 books published on the topics.

A liberdade de um aço versátil, por Roberto Segre

Uma apresentação por Roberto Segre para o livro STEEL LIFE

A utilização do aço na arquitetura está entrando no seu terceiro século de existência. A revolução estrutural começou no século XIX, nas avançadas obras de Gustav Eiffel e se consolidou em Chicago com a proliferação dos arranha-céus de escritórios no centro da cidade. Mas os elementos construtivos – vigas e colunas – ainda não tinham obtido uma significação estética, ocultos no interior das caixas de alvenaria e das fachadas decoradas. Foi Mies van der Rohe quem assumiu, elaborou e difundiu a pureza formal da estrutura de aço, que, acompanhada pela transparência do vidro, definiu a tipologia da caixa leve, horizontal e vertical, utilizada em residências e edifícios altos ao longo do século XX. Um extenso grupo de arquitetos identificou-se com o estrito racionalismo imposto pelos componentes metálicos, seriados e normalizados, produzidos industrialmente: entre outros estão Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, Craig Ellwood, I.M. Pei, Eero Saarinen, Arne Jacobsen. Mas ao mesmo tempo, se evidenciaram as possibilidades plásticas do aço que, assim como o concreto armado, permitiria a invenção de formas livres e esculturais. Os construtivistas russos foram os primeiros a associar o aço com uma nova estética de vanguarda, baseada nas imagens icônicas que identificariam o progresso do socialismo: são as fantasias utópicas de V.E. Tatlin, Ivan Leonidov e Ja. G. Chernikov.

A superação da rígida simplicidade da caixa aconteceu quando surgiram novos elementos estruturais, estabelecidos por diferenciados componentes lineares e nós de articulação que permitiram cobrir grandes vãos livres, desenvolvidos basicamente por Buckminster Fuller e Konrad Wachsmann nos Estados Unidos. A crítica ao anonimato do International Style começa nos anos cinqüenta com o New Brutalism na Inglaterra, e surge com as estruturas de aço da escola South Hunstanton de Peter & Alison Smithson. Começa aí uma experimentação plástica que se mantém até hoje, nas obras de Renzo Piano & Richard Rogers; Norman Foster; Nicholas Grimshaw; e cuja liberdade formal e estrutural pode ser percebida no início do século XXI, com as invenções de Frank Gehry, Santiago Calatrava e Herzog & de Meuron. Cabe destacar o “ninho” do estádio olímpico de Beijing em 2008 como ícone de uma renovada estética baseada na versatilidade da estrutura de aço.

Nesta dinâmica criativa se insere a obra de João Diniz. Ele pertence ao grupo de vanguarda que propôs resgatar através da arquitetura a identidade ambiental e cultural de Minas Gerais, caracterizada economicamente pela seqüência da exploração mineral, inicialmente com o ouro no período colonial, e no século vinte com o ferro e a siderurgia. Em arquitetura, esta nova identidade significava utilizar o aço em contraposição ao predomínio do concreto armado estabelecido por Oscar Niemeyer nas obras construídas no estado e em particular em Belo Horizonte.  Assim como se fala das “escolas” carioca e paulista, surgiu um movimento que identifica a “escola” mineira liderado a partir do final dos anos setenta por jovens arquitetos como Éolo Maia, Jô Vasconcellos, Humberto Serpa, Cid Horta, Álvaro Hardy e Mariza M. Coelho, Flávio Almada, Sylvio Emrich de Podestá, Gustavo Penna, João Diniz e outros. Eles rejeitaram a linguagem tecnocrática da ditadura militar e o “estilo” Niemeyer associado ao poder político de Juscelino Kubitschek; e assumiram, naquela época, o Pós-moderno como uma tendência renovadora, que facilitava a liberdade expressiva. Como membro mais jovem deste grupo, João Diniz soube, ao mesmo tempo, relacionar a sua sensibilidade aberta a outras manifestações culturais – o desenho, a fotografia, a escultura, a música e a poesia – com a versatilidade das estruturas metálicas. Nas obras apresentadas neste livro se evidencia a multiplicidade de caminhos existentes na utilização do aço.

As possibilidades esculturais dos elementos metálicos são visíveis nas peças apresentadas na Sala Especial da Bienal Internacional de Arquitetura de São Paulo em 2003, no Portal do Festival de Arte Negra e no mobiliário urbano na Rua Rio de Janeiro, que aproxima estes ensaios construtivos com a obra de Amílcar de Castro e Franz Weissmann. Por sua vez, a herança “miesiana” está presente no Vestiário do Clube Campestre e na Reitoria da Fumec; e a lembrança dos estudos de Charles e Ray Eames nos anos cinqüenta aparece no projeto da habitação experimental Casexp. O Ginásio Querubins, com o grande espaço coberto, assume os desenhos estruturais das primeiras obras de Norman Foster; assim como as Unidades Móveis de Educação Ambiental constituem uma homenagem a Buckminster Fuller.  A articulação entre formas fechadas e abertas; e o diálogo entre diferentes materiais, que permitem integrar as transparências da estrutura de aço com a solidez do concreto armado, do tijolo e da madeira, se desenvolve na escala urbana, nos edifícios Capri e Scala Workcenter; e caracteriza o conjunto das originais e criativas residências desenhadas por Diniz: a casa Eugênia, Marina, KS, Jorge e Serrana. Por último, as inovações formais e espaciais identificadoras deste novo século, com as superfícies metálicas livres e fluídas, aparecem no projeto da sede do Grupo Corpo, no Centro de Adaptação da Aeronáutica (CIAAR) e no Museu Fiat. São obras que demonstram, não somente a capacidade inventiva de João Diniz, mas ao mesmo tempo o seu desejo de entender e processar as imagens renovadoras da contemporaneidade, evidenciando a sua presença no universo mineiro, brasileiro e mundial. As teses antropofágicas de Oswald de Andrade continuam vigentes no século XXI.

Roberto Segre

Rio de Janeiro, 14 de dezembro, 2008.


Nascido em Milão, Itália (1934). Formado pela Universidade de Arquitetura e Urbanismo de Buenos Aires (1960), Doutor em Ciências e Artes pela Universidade de Havana em Cuba (1990), Doutor em Planejamento Regional e Urbano pela Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro (1997). Professor Titular e/ou convidado em universidades do Rio de Janeiro, Havana, Nova York, Houston, Los Angeles, Santo Domingo, e Lima. Ministrou cursos e conferências em universidades da América Latina, Estados Unidos e Europa. Recebeu vários prêmios internacionais pelos livros escritos. Tem mais de 300 ensaios publicados sobre arquitetura e urbanismo na América Latina e no Caribe; e mais de 30 livros editados sobre estes temas.