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