Architectural Latin American Modernism

Twentieth-century politics, historiography and the academic debate

Authored by: Felipe Hernández

The Modernist World

Print publication date:  June  2015
Online publication date:  June  2015

Print ISBN: 9780415845038
eBook ISBN: 9781315778334
Adobe ISBN: 9781317696162

10.4324/9781315778334.ch41

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Abstract

The concept of Latin American architectural modernism generates contradictory reactions. While architects like Oscar Niemeyer and Luis Barragán are internationally recognized figures, many architects and theorists in the continent have raised important questions about modernism’s socio-cultural implications. It is true that architects such as Lucio Costa, Christian De Groote, Eladio Dieste, Affonso Eduardo Reidy, Rogelio Salmona, Clorindo Testa, and Carlos Raul Villanueva have (and continue to) influenced architecture since the mid twentieth century, but their work remains in relative obscurity for most people; it is known to architects, the educated socio-economic elites, and those working in arts and design. The totality of their work represents an insignificant fraction of all construction in Latin America, and their buildings represent a small portion of the population. As with modernist architects elsewhere, these figures’ buildings do not represent the majority; they become representative through a discourse that has made them valuable as part of a tradition. 1 Another reason for the growing discomfort with the notion of modernism amongst Latin American architects is the close linkage to North American cultural institutions, and to the US government, especially in the mid twentieth century. Many architectural scholars and practitioners today feel that modern architectural identities in Latin America were created by North American institutions with an interest in disseminating modernism – and their interest was political and economic, rather than architectural, social, philanthropic, or even idealistic. As such, exploring architectural modernism in Latin America is complicated and politicized.

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