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

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