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|Born||Lúcio Marçal Ferreira Ribeiro Lima Costa
27 February 1902
|Died||13 June 1998
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
|Buildings||Gustavo Capanema Palace|
|Projects||Pilot Plan of Brasília|
Costa was born in Toulon, France, son of Brazilian parents. His father Joaquim Ribeiro da Costa, from Salvador, Bahia, was a naval engineer, and his mother Alina Ferreira da Costa, was from Manaus, Amazonas. He was educated at the Royal Grammar School, Newcastle upon Tyne, England, and at the Collège National in Montreux, Switzerland, until 1916, he graduated as an architect in 1924 from the National School of Fine Arts (Escola Nacional de Belas Artes) in Rio de Janeiro. After some early works in the eclectic manner, he adopted Modernism in 1929. In 1930 Costa established a partnership with Russian-born Brazilian architect Gregori Warchavchik, and also became the Director of the National School of Fine Arts where he had studied. Even though he found students eager to be taught in the "new style," his ruthless administration won him the opposition of the faculty and student body, and Costa eventually had to resign after a year in office. He joined the newly created SPHAN (Servico do Patrimônio Histórico e Artístico Nacional – National Service of Historic and Artistic Heritage) in 1937 under Rodrigo Melo Franco de Andrade. He remained at the National Heritage Service until retirement, acceding to the top post of director, where he was followed by his granddaughter Maria Elisa Costa. During his tenure as regional and then national director, he became involved in numerous controversial decisions (see Controversies).
Costa became a figure associated with reconciling traditional Brazilian forms and construction techniques with international modernism, particularly the work of Le Corbusier. His works include the Brazilian pavilion at the New York World's Fair of 1939 (designed with Oscar Niemeyer), the Parque Guinle residential complex in Rio of 1948, and the Hotel do Park São Clemente in Nova Friburgo of 1948. Among his major works are also the Ministry of Education and Health, in Rio (1936–43), designed with Niemeyer, Roberto Burle Marx, among others, and consulted by Le Corbusier, and the Pilot Plan of Brasília, a competition winner designed in 1957 and mostly built in 1958–1960.
Costa taught geometry and drawing at the Liceu de Artes e Ofícios of Rio from 1938–1954. The Liceu was affiliated with the Associação Académica de Coimbra where Costa also taught until 1966, and received a Medal of Merit from the Portuguese government.
During his long tenure as regional, later national chief of the Brazilian Historic and Artistic Heritage Institute (Instituto do Patrimônio Histórico e Artístico Nacional – IPHAN), Costa pushed for systematic documentation of existing architectural and urbanistic heritage, but his critics allege that he let his personal preferences and political opinions interfere with the bases of his decisions. In 1975, he created a public controversy by refusing to sign the landmarking act of Palácio Monroe, the former seat of the Brazilian Senate, built in 1906. The building was slated for demolition because of the construction of the subway but in the face of public and media outcry, the construction company shifted the line to preserve the building. This effort, however, was in vain since landmark status was denied and a developer razed the building shortly thereafter. Costa preferred the heritage of the Portuguese colonization over that of any other time or ethnic group (except for Brazilian Modernism). Because of that attitude, inculcated also on younger preservationists thanks to Costa's influence in the architecture schools, much of 19th- and early 20th-century architecture, including the architecture of German, Japanese and Italian immigrants, was lost to urban renewal in the 1960s and 1970s.
In 1936, when the competition to design the new Ministry of Education and Health was held, the winner was an eclectic design by architect Arquimedes Memória. Costa used his political connections within the government to scrap the competition result and instead form a new design team headed by himself, the Roberto Brothers and a young architect who had been Costa's intern, Niemeyer.
He died in Rio de Janeiro in 1998.
Costa is best known for his urban plan for the new capital of Brasília, located in Brazil's hinterland, having won the job in a 1957 public competition in order to replace Rio de Janeiro as the capital of Brazil. His Plano Piloto (Pilot Plan) for Brasília, is in the shape of an irregular cross, suggesting an airplane or dragonfly. While the majority of the projects architecture was designed by Oscar Niemeyer, Costa's own Parque Guinle project was the model for Brasília's many residential tower-in-a-park superblocks. The new city was inaugurated on April 21, 1960 and represents one of the largest adoptions of Modernism in a singular project to the present day.
Although named as an UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987, the city is notorious for its windswept emptiness and anti-pedestrian layout. Some streets are badly lit because the height and the spacing of light standards were not changed with the advent of mercury-vapor bulbs, and World Heritage Site designation has prevented remediation. Overall, despites the city's positive features, the concept and execution have sparked controversy. Brasilia has been expressed as a attempt at a utopian city or in the nickname "ilha da fantasia" ("fantasy island"),indicating the sharp contrast between the city and the surrounding regions, marked by poverty and disorganization.
Background and Concept
The middle of the 20th century saw urban struggles for Brazil. Brazilian cities, particularly Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo had seen rising problems regarding transportation, sufficient housing, public utilities, and disputation of essential goods such as food. By the 1950’s, the frustration of the upper class residences of these locations had decided that a solution had to be implemented.
There was no consensus on the project from the Brazilian people. Many thought that the new capital would be a “monumental urbanistic and social disaster”, believing that a project of that magnitude and cost would cause massive inflation in the Brazilian economy. The critics believed that the state of Brazil, defined by poverty, corruption, and disease, would not be addressed by the building of a new capital city; it would merely distract from the nation’s real issues while giving the populist politians, such as Juscelino Kubitschek, a way of enriching their personal legacies.
Despite the criticism, the idea of a new capital received a wave a backing. To the supporters, Brasília would symbolize Brazil’s coming of age. The Brazilian costal cities were remnants of the colonial era and the center for agricultural trade. Despite Brazil’s imposing geographic presence in South America, the country was largely a costal country. There had been several publicists calling for a marcha para oeste, or westward march, in order to utilize the bountiful excess of land to the west. Also, it was felt that due to the current capital’s location at Rio, the government’s views of the nation was distorted. To be placed in a central location for these reasons, Brasília could become a new source for new growth for the country, a springboard for modernization and industrial production. The new capital would be the diverging point for a series of new infrastructure development, such as long-range highways. It would be an optimistic step towards a unified, modern, and prosperous Brazil; towards fulfilling Brazil’s “continental destiny” while also reliving the pressure on the existing urban centers. As put by Brazilian writer and diplomat José Osvaldo de Meira Penna in 1958: “A centrally located capital…might make Brazil more conscious of her role in the Americas, her terrestrial frontiers with Paraguay, Bolivia, Peru, Colombia, and Venezuela. When the attention of the elites turns from their nearly exclusive interest in Europea, the ‘splendid isolation’ will be broken which has until now separated, in spirit and in fact, Brazil from continental neighbors.”
The idea to establish a new Brazilian capital was adopted, and the location for Brasília would be within the Brazilian State of Goiás. The search for the site had been calculated, based on factors such as the favorability of the climate, water supply, land quality for agriculture, a suitable power source within 100 kilometers, and access to around and air transportation.
Once it had been determined that there would be a new capital and the location had been established, the project entered into the design process. The plan was to be selected among competing plans from various Brazilian architects and city planners by an international jury. The participating designers were given the necessary information to make suiting plans for the space. Each participant was to submit two pieces in their proposal, a basic layout of the city and a supporting report that exhibited logistical details.
The design of Lucio Costa was selected for Brasilia. Although the design had not been as detailed as some of the other plans submitted, the jurors found it favorable due its features that would compliment future population growth. The plan conceptually demanded four components: (1) the government buildings, (2) the residential zones or superblocks, (3) the vehicular circulation and transportation infrastructure, (4) and the city center. In order to fulfill this, Costa’s design called for an urban plan in the form of a cross, often described as an airplane, bird, or dragonfly. The plan essentially divided the new capital into two parts, the Monumental Axis and the Residential Axis. The Monumental Axis, which points east to west, would serve as the home for the new civic buildings. This wide mall was intended to create a feeling of grandeur and significance, and is the location of the ministries, national congress, and other administrative buildings. The two “wings” of the Residential Axis, which runs north to south, would contain the residential and commercial developments. Costa envisioned these as the most important aspect of the design, as it would be home to a majority of the cities daily operations; such as local commerce, schooling, recreations and churches. It constituted of 96 superblocks limited to six stories buildings and 12 additional superblocks limited to three stories buildings. Each of the individual super blocks was suppose to have a distinct style for each superblock and a uniform paint scheme that set it apart from the surrounding superblocks. Costa’s goal for the superblocks was to create neighborhoods and communities that were small self-contained and self-sufficient. He envisioned that they would have apartment buildings of a consistent modern style that housed both upper and middle classes, making integration a key theme of the city’s design. The Residential Axis’s two wings were meant to have a character that was intimate and peaceful, rather than the Monumental Axis that was designed to be imposing.
One of the unique aspects about the plan was how it was designed to handle expansion and growth. Unlike most cities, which add to a grid or expand the urban plan with growth, Costa’s design provided the complete and large-scale plan. The original plan included paving streets in areas of the city that would not be put to immediate use, making the landscape of the city defined and hard to change during future construction. It was already “born with an adult skeleton.” However, this did mean that large portions of the city would not see high levels of activity in the yearly years. Another contributing factor in the thorough plan was an emphasis on establishing an organized road system that would best serve the expanding use of automobiles. Costa’s design of auto-routes was meant to create a system where traffic would be free flowing. He hoped that by establishing this grid at the city’s founding that future construction projects regarding traffic improvements could be avoided.
The President of Brazil, Juscelino Kubitschek (1956-1961), approved Costa’s plan and construction of Brasília, fulfilling the promise of the Brazilian constitution and some of his own personal political campaign promises. Construction started in 1956, using the urban design of Costa and the services of chief architect Oscar Niemeyer. The initial phase of Brasília was completed on April 21, 1960, in only four years. By the time of the inauguration on this date, while the city was not fully complete, Costa’s vision had taken its physical form; the main buildings on the Monumental Axis, such as the Congress and Ministries had been built, along with the main transit center, the majority of the highway system, and several of the superblocks. In order to complete the large project in a short window of time, funding had to be organized swiftly, sufficient labor had to be acquired, and equipment and material had to be bought and transported onto the site. Labor for the project required the migration of workers into the area and construction camps were built to house workers with the permission of the authorities. While altercations have been made to the design since the cities construction, the city’s original plan by Costa prominently survives.
- 1920 – Castelo de Itaipava, with Fernando Valentim
- 1934 – Vila Operária da Gamboa, Rio de Janeiro
- 1934 – Vila Operária de João Monlevade, Minas Gerais;
- 1936 – Gustavo Capanema Palace, Rio de Janeiro, with Affonso Eduardo Reidy, Roberto Burle Marx, Oscar Niemeyer, et al.
- 1937 – Mission Museum, Rio Grande do Sul
- 1939 – Brazil Pavilion, 1939 New York World's Fair
- Residência Hungria Machado, Rio de Janeiro
- Summer Home of Barão de Saavedra, Petrópolis
- 1944 – Park Hotel São Clemente, Nova Friburgo
- Parque Guinle, Laranjeiras, Rio de Janeiro
- 1952 – Design of Casa do Brasil, Cité Internationale Universitaire de Paris, Paris
- 1956 – Offices of Jockey Club do Brasil, Rio de Janeiro
- 1957 – Master plan for Brasília
- 1967 – Master plan for Barra da Tijuca, Rio de Janeiro
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Lúcio Costa.|
- "Costa, Lúcio". Oxford Dictionaries. Oxford University Press. Retrieved 24 June 2013.
- Gerald W. R. Ward -The Grove Encyclopedia of Materials and Techniques in Art 2008– Page 121 ".. and the burgeoning school of modern architecture in Latin America, most notably at the Ministry of Education and Health in Rio de Janeiro (now the Palácio da Cultura, 1937–43) by Lúcio Costa (1902–98) ..."
- Com a palavra, Lúcio Costa Lúcio Costa, Maria Elisa Costa 2000 Page 161 – "LÚCIO COSTA (1902–1998) o percurso Anos 10 Nascido em Toulon, França, em 27 de fevereiro de 1902, filho do engenheiro naval Joaquim Ribeiro da Costa, natural de Salvador, Bahia, e de Alina Ferreira da Costa, natural de Manaus, .."
- Héctor Olea, Mari Carmen Ramírez -Building on a construct: the Adolpho Leirner collection of Brazilian constructive art at the Houston Museum of Fine Arts, 2009 Page 356 "Beginning in 1938, Costa taught descriptive geometry and drawing for sixteen years at the Liceu de Artes ... which was affiliated with the Associação Académica de Coimbra — where Costa taught until 1966 – he received a Medal of Merit from the Portuguese government.
- Epstein, [by] David G. (1973). Brasília, plan and reality; a study of planned and spontaneous urban development. Berkeley: University of California Press. p. 26. ISBN 0520022033.
- Epstein, [by] David G. (1973). Brasília, plan and reality; a study of planned and spontaneous urban development. Berkeley: University of California Press. p. 28. ISBN 0520022033.
- Epstein, [by] David G. (1973). Brasília, plan and reality; a study of planned and spontaneous urban development. Berkeley: University of California Press. p. 54. ISBN 0520022033.