In the Footsteps of the Bauhaus

Its Reception and Impact on Brazilian Modernity

Alexander Altberg, The front cover of the exhibition catalogue 1° Salão de Arquitetura Tropical (1933),
photo collage of buildings Alexandre Altberg’s und Gregori Warchavchik’s,
photo: Archive  PRO-ARQ UFRJ.

Through the strong German-speaking minority and its active work in the creation and mediation of culture in the spirit of modernity, the application of Bauhaus formal language, especially in the first phase of Brazilian modernity, has played a considerable role. It was only with the equation of German culture with National Socialism and the ensuing intolerance of German protagonists that these architectural and cultural activities were severely disrupted. In Brazil during this period, a style of modernism based on the principles of Le Corbusier finally gained acceptance. The impulses of the Bauhaus, however, which were not perceived for many years, were also reinterpreted and further developed within Brazil, although they remained occulted in comparison to the public reception of Corbusier.

The Bauhaus from a Brazilian Perspective–Le Corbusier vs. Gropius

There is no such thing as “Bauhaus architecture.” This work, however, does not attempt to demonstrate the influence of a uniform Bauhaus style, but rather to identify the impulses from the Bauhaus’s immediate surroundings in order to draw attention to a distinction or demarcation between German and French Modernisms (or between the “Neues Bauen” and Le Corbusier). This approach arose as a reaction to the prevailing attitude within Brazilian architectural history research, which places modernism almost exclusively under Le Corbusier’s influence, in particular his Five Points of Architecture. It is certainly difficult to distinguish between the different schools of modernism, especially since there were many overlaps and a detailed genesis of provenance remains part of contemporary historical research. And yet, within institutions such as the Bauhaus and associations close to it, such as Der Ring, there are common characteristics, such as the corner window, the interaction between closed and open space on wall surfaces, the play of sun and shadow, the hiding of main entrances, protruding elements or emphasis on volume and structural functions that can be highlighted and serve as criteria for attribution.1 This selection of characteristic features are examples of how many architectural elements first developed at the Bauhaus later became popular motifs within Neues Bauen architecture.

It should also be noted that these influences must be viewed from a Brazilian perspective. Due to the distance and the incomplete flow of information to Brazil, no distinction was initially made between the architecture of Hannes Meyer or Ernst May, for instance, and scarcely any intermediate steps were perceived in the development of European modernism in general. Different projects were simply categorized as falling under French (aka Le Corbusier) or German (aka Gropius) influence. The present work elaborates on the many gradations in attribution and influence that exist in Brazilian modern architecture, and in so doing opens up a new discourse. The concept of an International Style is deliberately avoided, since it is the term under which Hitchcock attempted to unite under one name a subjective selection of “white cube” architectures, but this is by no means true of what Zukovsky termed the “diversity of modernity in Germany.”2 Instead, the term Neues Bauen is used, which certainly overlaps with the International Style, but is nevertheless an extended and appropriate term when considering of German impulses in Brazil.

The Beginnings of Brazilian Modernism

Since its first steps towards the end of the 1920s, Brazilian modern architecture has produced outstanding buildings and is still recognized as possessing its own architectural identity. Since its beginnings with the first exhibitions of modern houses by Gregori Warchavchik in São Paulo and the emergence of the Escola Carioca around Lúcio Costa, modern Brazilian architecture was considered to be mainly influenced by Le Corbusier. In fact, at the beginning of modernism, Brazilian architects oriented themselves in relation to various avant-garde art schools— in particular also to German rationalism, which was introduced primarily by the country’s numerous German-speaking emigrants (many of them Jewish) who frequently saw the Bauhaus as a manifestation of their own cause.

An interpretation and classification of Bauhaus influences, however, remains problematic to this day. In the Brazil of the 1920s, the program of the Bauhaus and the names of the architects connected to the Neues Bauen were largely unknown. Only its most important representatives—Walter Gropius, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Marcel Breuer to name several—were known, rather than the overall concept of the Bauhaus school which provided the initial impetus. The Bauhaus principles were received mainly through scientific publications—international, German and Brazilian alike—as well as through exhibitions and architectural training at the Escola National das Belas Artes (ENBA).

ENBA’s first “Functional Architecture” class, which produced the first generation of committed modernists, was initiated by its young director Lúcio Costa as part of a reform of architecture education. The Bauhaus corresponded to Costa’s idea of a perfect art school. But against the resistance of the traditionalists, he did not succeed in implementing an equally radical plan during his short directorship,3 even though he had employed two architects of foreign origin as professors for the teaching of “functional architecture”—the aforementioned Gregori Warchavchik and Alexander Buddeus. Warchavchik’s and Buddeus’s own buildings show strong parallels to those designed by Walter Gropius during his Bauhaus directorship, which, with their special construction method, also exerted a profound influence on his Bauhaus students. Probably Warchavchik and Buddeus had been inspired and influenced by Gropius’s understanding of architecture, which had already been featured in Europe in journals with international circulation. With their employment at ENBA, Costa won two teachers for his school who were already dedicated Modernists, laying the foundation for a new generation of modern Brazilian architects.4 Paulo Ferreira Santos, architectural historian and contemporary witness—being himself an architecture lecturer at ENBA from the 1930s to the 1940s—reported: “Buddeus and Warchavchik made the school a real revolution,” which was to have an enormous influence on the young generation.5 In addition, Buddeus’s great merit was that he introduced the German architecture journals Moderne Bauformen and Die Form to Brazil.6

The Bauhaus has been followed in the press since the beginnings of its institutional existence, and its social and cultural dimensions were much discussed.7 At that time, Moderne Bauformen and Die Form, as well as Bauwelt, were among the most influential German modernist architecture journals, playing an important role in disseminating the ideas of Neues Bauen and the Bauhaus; from 1929, they were included in the holdings of the libraries and soon subscribed to by other institutions across the country.8 In addition to the conservatively oriented Deutsche Bauzeitung, which only began to bow to the trend in modernist architecture in 1928, reporting increasingly on Neues Bauen, Brazilian libraries also carried other titles dealing with modernist themes since the early 1920s, such as Der Architekt and Wasmuth’s Monatshefte für Baukunst. In addition, a number of technical architectural journals can be listed, including Beton und Eisen, Die Bautechnik, the Zeitschrift des Vereins Deutscher Ingenieure, Baumeister and Baugilde,9 as well as several titles in the field of art and academic art-historical journals, including Deutsche Kunst und Dekoration, Das Kunstblatt and Der Querschnitt. German journals were so dominant that Diógenes Rebouças, an architect and university professor of the time, reported that the journals circulating in Brazil in the 1930s were all German.10

As might be expected, the international trade press also followed architectural developments in Germany with great interest.11 In Brazil, various institutions received a considerable amount of international architectural and art-historical periodicals from the United States, France and Great Britain. All leading international journals were accessible in the country’s most important libraries: in addition to the Architectural Record and Architectural Forum, which played a decisive role in the publication of Bauhaus contents, Architectural Review, L’architecture d’aujourd’hui, Pencil Point and The RIBA Journal were also available.

With regard to the popularization of Bauhaus ideas, scientific monographs and reference books played a major role alongside periodicals. Among the publications of Bauhaus masters present in Brazil were the classics Die Internationale Architektur (Bauhaus books 1, 1925) and The New Architecture and the Bauhaus (1934) by Walter Gropius, as well as The New Vision: From Material to Architecture (1932) and Telehor: International Journal for Visual Culture (1936), both by László Moholy-Nagy. The country’s most important libraries also included standard works by international specialists reporting on the Bauhaus, such as Sigfried Giedion’s Liberated Living and Walter Gropius, Henry-Russell Hitchcock’s and Philip Johnson’s The International Style: Architecture since 1922, Le Corbusier’s Vers une architecture and Catherine Bauer’s Modern Housing.12

In addition to public institutions, private individuals also had access to specialist press publications and many assembled their own collections, some of which were remarkably extensive. It is well known that the private library of the Lithuanian Jewish Expressionist and family member of Warchavchik, Lasar Segall contained six editions of the Bauhaus books, including Gropius’s Internationale Architektur and Adolf Meyer’s Ein Versuchshaus des Bauhauses in Weimar.13 Interestingly, among the poorly preserved items in Warchavchik’s library are titles such as Wie bauen? Materialien und Konstruktionen für industrielle Produktion (How to build? Materials and constructions for industrial production) by Heinz and Bodo Rasch from 1928, and Adolf Schneck’s Türen aus Holz und Metall. Konstruktion und Maueranschlag (Doors made of wood and metal; 1933),14 indicating that Brazilian architects not only had access to relevant publications and, thus, to general positions, but also to smaller editions and specialist books. Of particular note here is the collection of the architectural historian Paulo Santos, who had an impressive collection on the bibliography of modernism and whose estate is now a specialized library for architectural history.

The Reception of the Bauhaus in the Brazilian Trade Press

Until the end of the 1920s, the Brazilian trade press only published sporadic news about new architectural trends. At that time, there were only a few trade journals circulating in the country, mostly of a conservative orientation, such as Architectura no Brasil (which began publication in 1921), A Casa (1924) and Técnica e Arte (1928).15 In the 1930s, the number of modern journals in the country slowly increased, led in this upsurge by A casa, which after 1929 was published under the title A Casa: Revista das construcções modernas and dealt with topics such as construction, craftsmanship and foreign species of urbanism, and from 1930 covered the modernist movement in Europe in articles with titles such as “A architectura moderna no velho continente” (Modern Architecture on the old continent).16

Another journal, the Revista de Engenharia da Prefeitura do Distrito Federal (PDF), began publication in 1932 and dealt primarily with problems of urban planning. Within the pages of the magazine, in addition to reporting on the program of the Congrès internationaux d'architecture moderne (CIAM), an article about Gropius by Armando de Godoys (an architect and publicist) was also published, recognizing him as an important reference in the exhibition of the 1° Salão de Arquitetura Tropical held a month earlier.17 Arquitetura e Urbanismo a periodical which started publication in 1936 should also be mentioned: in addition to relevant Brazilian projects, it published several brief illustrated accounts of Neues Bauen works and, significantly, detailed reports on social housing. For example, the magazine ran articles such as “Apartamentos Económicos” on the housing estates of Bruno Taut, Paul Mebes and Paul Emmerich in Berlin-Neukölln and Taut’s Onkel Toms Hütte estate in Berlin-Zehlendorf, while the section “Fotografias e Comentários de Viagens” discussed other major housing projects like the Berlin Siemens city, industrial buildings, but also small residences on the outskirts of the German capital.18

At the beginning of the 1930s the magazine forma—published in the period 1930–32 by Alejandro Baldassini and Emílio Baumgart with the participation of Di Cavalcanti and Gregori Warchavchik—took its place alongside A Casa as one of the few proponent of modernism, although existing only for a short time. The founders borrowed the name of the journal from that of the German journal Die Form. Similar to Alexandre Altberg’s base, which appeared somewhat later, forma was printed using lowercase letters in the style of the universal alphabet developed by Herbert Bayer for the Bauhaus in 1925. The focus of the newspaper was on disseminating ideas about modern construction methods and their technological aspects—mainly with reference to German modernism—as well as promoting the activities of German associations in Brazil such as Pró-Arte. The Pró-Arte, a community of German artists and art lovers operating in Rio de Janeiro since 1931, also founded its own bilingual magazine named Intercâmbio (Exchange), which ran from 1935 to 1980. Theodor Heuberger, founder of Pró-Arte and publisher of Intercâmbio, was known as a strong advocate of the Bauhaus.19 In the first show he organized in 1924, Arte e Arte Decorativa Alemã (German Art and Handicrafts), Heuberger exhibited works of the Munich New Secession and German crafts in several Brazilian cities, apparently choosing the title, following the example of the Bauhaus, as an indication of the abolition of the boundaries between fine art and handicrafts.20 With the recognition of Heuberger’s curatorial work, further exhibitions of German Modernism followed, such as Arte Decorativa Alemã (German Arts and Crafts), at which trend-setting Bauhaus design objects were first presented to a broad public in Rio at the ENBA, and later also in São Paulo.21 Intercâmbio supported Heuberger’s curatorial work and was intended to function as a platform for exchange between Brazilian and German art and culture, but also to build a bridge between the various genres of art. During the time it existed, Pró-Arte succeeded in taking on an important role in Rio’s cultural life. Having achieved a certain cult status within the circles of architects and artists, the artists’ association had a strong impact on the spread and formation of Brazilian Modernism.

In light of how few magazines were reporting on the modern architectural movement at the start of the 1930s, the German-Jewish architect and former Bauhaus student Alexandre Altberg decided to publish his own magazine under the name base—revista de arte, técnica e pensamento, in which he tried not only to present the new architecture, often using the example of his own buildings, but also strived to link architecture to art and craftsmanship, and to convince the reader of the interaction of different artistic genres. Altberg was not only the main force behind the magazine, he also financed its first issue, writing several articles, photographing works and taking over the graphic design to reduce overhead. In so doing he influenced the design of the magazine, using it to apply Bauhaus design principles, for example by placing the content in clearly structured blocks, with the vertical and horizontal coexisting and contrasting. The strong orientation of base towards Bauhaus books as well as the magazine die neue linie,22 which was close to the Bauhaus, is undeniable. Altberg arrived in Brazil with typographical experience, having participated in the editing of the catalogue for the Proletarische Bauausstellung (Proletarian Building Exhibition) in Berlin, augmenting this with his work for an exhibition of particular importance to Brazilian modern architecture, the 1° salão de arquitetura tropical (1. Salon of Tropical Architecture). He used lower case lettering exclusively, which had been part of the Bauhaus program since the introduction of Bayer’s universal font, who wrote: “we write everything in small letters, because it saves us time. moreover: why 2 alfabete (sic), if one achieves the same thing? why capitalize, if you can’t speak big?”23 In addition to the combination typeface by Josef Albers, he mainly used Bayer’s “sturm blond”—a typeface based on two geometric forms: circle and line. The line, as a black, vertical or diagonal bar, was also used in the layout of base for emphasis and demarcation.24

Even during his first years in Rio, as an architect and publicist Altberg tried to propagate Bauhaus ideas and obviously saw the use of the language of form, which was innovative for Brazil, as an opportunity for his recognition as an architect “where ideas were still very rare.”25 His merit, however, lay mainly in the journalistic networking and dissemination of the contents of German Modernism. Both the publication of base and the 1o salão de arquitetura tropical catalogue mark milestones for their content and design alike, as well as serving as important steps in constituting the aesthetics of Brazilian modernity.

Neues Bauen in Brazil

Despite his enthusiastic start in Brazil, Altberg did not manage to permanently establish himself as an architect. In the face of growing anti-Semitism within the country, Altberg, along with Warchavchik, failed in his efforts to win the attention of Brazilian clients and colleagues, in spite of the fact that Bauhaus design principles, as a symbol of a modern social-democratic lifestyle, had become programmatic for many of the German-speaking avant-garde members in Brazil. Examples of such Bauhaus-inspired projects by German-speaking architects or clients include the Casa Vertecz and Casa Rua Joana Angélica by Altberg in Rio de Janeiro, the Instituto Normal da Bahia by Alexander Buddeus in Bahia,26 the Residência Gerhard H. W. Karl von Willy Stein and the Residência Johan Wihan by Robert Wihan in the south of the country,27 or the Residência Nordschild in Rio de Janeiro and the Residência Max Graf in São Paulo by Warchavchik.28

Warchavchik, who was born in the Ukraine and emigrated to São Paulo in 1923, became acquainted with the circle of modernists shortly after he entered the country. In the following years he built his first houses, which clearly took its inspiration from Bauhaus architecture.29 In it, Warchavchik experimented intensively with the simple cuboid, which was supplemented by canopy-like bands protruding from the alignment of the façade, which was designed asymmetrically, following the ground plan and emphasized through the use of variegated window shapes. At the same time, the corner windows often used by Walter Gropius, among others, were applied, enabling the viewer’s gaze to continue around the corner. Warchavchik’s use of the motifs of a decentralized entrance with L-shaped building elements, inviting visitors to walk on and under, as well as interact with the closed and open spaces of the building’s surfaces (which themselves engaged in a kind of sun-shadow play), were other features frequently applied by Bauhaus architects. They can best be understood using the example of the “Baukasten im Großen” (large-scale building blocks), a project that has gained a worldwide reputation since the 1923 exhibition and Gropius’s publication Internationale Architektur.

The Residência Max Graf, in which Warchavchik engaged the theme of the cube, is an especially interesting example of the architect’s approach. The composition of the residence was kept as simple as possible, with an L-shaped canopy in front of a bigger cube and a smaller cube behind of it, both connected with a low wall. The distribution of the window openings follows the floor plan, which was designed without an entrance hall and with the living and sleeping areas functionally separated from each other. The overall concept, the design of the facades, as well as the disposition of the floor plan and the formal connection of the opposing volumes owe an obvious debt to “The Red Cube” by Farkas Molnár, the concept of which was developed in the final phase of the “Baukasten im Großen” and quickly gained recognition, having been made public both at the Internationale Architekturausstellung of 1923 and in several publications by Gropius.30 The comparison was accentuated by the façade of the Max Graf House being painted in red and white, a further echo of Molnár’s iconic design.

left: Gregori Warchavchik, Residência Luiz Silva Prado, Rua Bahia, São Paulo 1930, front facade, photo: Arcoweb, Igor Fracalossi, Clássicos da Arquitetura: Casa Modernista da Rua Bahia/Gregori Warchavchik.
right: Walter Gropius, Villa Zuckerkandl, Weinbergstrasse 4a, front facade, Jena 1927–28, Photo: President and Fellows of Harvard College, Harvard Art Museums/Busch-Reisinger Museum, Gift of Walter Gropius, Object Number BRGA.26D.6.

Warchavchik’s detailed knowledge of the architectural designs of some Bauhaus protagonists and the proximity of his formal language to the Neue Sachlichkeit practiced by them is, however, particularly evident in his Residência Luiz Silva Prado. Here, a comparison with the Villa Zuckerkandl (1927–29) by Walter Gropius cannot be ignored. Warchavchik composed the Prado residência in the same way as Gropius, using different sized, slightly offset and interpenetrating cuboid structures, with the lower and wider cuboid closed off with a roof terrace and divided by ribbon windows, and the upper cuboid by the terraces surrounding the corner. Other facades were broken by asymmetrically distributed window openings, which followed the internal structure. The distribution of windows results directly from the floor plan and not from any symmetrical scheme—the design of the exterior space being determined by the division of the interior space. Like Gropius, Warchavchik aligned the Residência Luiz Silva Prado with the topography of the slope—with three out of four floors facing the view, stepped to two and three floors facing the slope—using an almost identical floor plan to Gropius’s Villa Zuckerkandl, with a similar distribution of doorways. In addition, the Brazilian villa shows parallels in its formal design, such as the emphasis on the horizontal in the smaller cube, or the verticality of the staircase.

Although Warchavchik withdrew from architecture after several professional disappointments and on account of Brazil’s growing anti-Semitism, he is of immense importance as a pioneer of modern architecture in Brazil. In addition to his design work, he published the first Brazilian manifesto of modern architecture and organized and participated in pioneering modern architecture exhibitions, including the exhibition of a Casa Modernista (Modern House) in the Rua Itápolis in São Paulo in 1930, and the Casa Nordschild in Rio de Janeiro one year later.31 In the Exposição de um Apartamento Moderno (Exhibition of a Modern Apartment) from 1932, with Alexandre Altberg and Lasar Segall, the artists showed several examples of Bauhaus furniture and carpets. In 1933, with Altberg and the architectural office Warchavchik and Costa, Warchavchik organized the aforementioned exhibition, 1o salão de arquitetura tropical, whose exhibition catalogue was not only based on the aesthetics of Bauhaus typography but translated excerpts of programmatic texts from Gropius’s Bauhausbauten Dessau from 1930. Warchavchik was also present as Brazil’s representative at the CIAM Congress in Brussels in 1930 and, as a result of his correspondence with Sigfried Giedion, was familiar with the ideas of a Wohnung für das Existenzminimum (The Dwelling for Minimal Existence). He pioneered the concepts of seriality and social housing in his Casas econômicas project on the street Afonso Celso and D. Berta in São Paulo, as well as a short time later with the Vila Operária da Gamboa in Rio, possibly marking the beginning of this development in Brazil.32 Both projects can be seen as referring to the houses of the “KOMBA” building group by Ernst May and Franz Roeckle on Hügelstraße and Fontanestraße in Frankfurt. Since the issues of social housing had not been a focus of discussion in Brazil up until that point, Warchavchik can be considered its pioneer, being the first teacher of functional architecture in the country to inspire several students through these ideas. His influence manifested itself not only in later residential projects, such as Casa Antonio Nogueira Assioly Netto by Gerson Pinheiro and Affonso Eduardo Reidy, but also in Brazil’s nascent social housing programs.

The first “housing for minimum subsistence” programs in Brazil were fueled by the acute housing shortage that had arisen in the rapidly growing cities, which made social housing an urgent national affair. In this sense, Carlos Ferreira, a former student at ENBA in the days of Warchavchik and Buddeus, dealt with the issues of worker settlements, the rationalization of construction, seriality and economic efficiency. The 1929 Frankfurt CIAM Congress already provided completed concepts for this.

Ferreira’s plans for Brazil’s first social housing settlement in Realengo included worker housing with a comprehensive infrastructure, consisting of typified and standardized low and mid-rise buildings.33 The form of the settlement corresponded to the Zeilenbauweise (row-block construction method). While row-block construction in Realengo was an innovation in Brazil, it was already one of the main principles of Neues Bauen in Germany. The concept of row housing construction, in which the form of the block-edge development was replaced by housing strips with adjacent green areas, ensuring that all apartments received “light, air and sun,”34 goes back to de Fries and Behrens.35 The modern housing block concept was systematized and popularized in the article “Die Wohnformen: Flach-, Mittel-, oder Hochbauten?” (Form of living: Low, Mid- or High-Rise Building?) by Walter Gropius.36 Later adopted and extended by Ernst May, it formed the basis for the New Frankfurt development, which served as a showcase for the Second CIAM Congress.

left: Carlos Frederico Ferreira, “Laubenganghaus” (balcony-access house), Realengo, Rio de Janeiro 1940-43, photo: G. E. Kidder Smith, in: Philip Lippincott Goodwin, Brazil Builds, Architecture New And Old 1652–942, New York, MoMA 1943, p. 129.
right: Ernst May, Ludwig-Landmann-Straße, Praunheim, Frankfurt am Main 1928–30, photo: 25asd, CC0.

Another innovation in Realengo was the balcony-access house type. This typology was noticed by the architect Monteiro de Carvalho on his travels through Germany and discussed in Arquitetura e Urbanismo: “In this block, the access to the apartments is provided by galleries or continuous balconies with staircases at both ends. This building is therefore called ‘LAUBENGANGHAUS.’”37 é feito por galerias ou balcões corridos com escadas nas duas extremidades. Esse predio é por isso chamado a LAUBENGANGHAUS …”, own translation, see Monteiro A. de Carvalho: “Fotografias e comentários de Viagens,” in: Arquitetura e Urbanismo, September/October 1936, pp. 155–157.]

The “LAUBENGANGHAUS” or balcony-access house, which still today has no proper name in Brazil, was developed as a result of the multiplication of porticos, with the aim of saving the inner corridor. Based on the small apartments of the “Pawlatschenhaus” type that had spread throughout Budapest and Vienna, Anton Brenner developed his first balcony-access houses within the framework of the New Frankfurt development.38 The open galleries, which combined the function of a balcony and corridor and thus emphasized its common aspects, were mostly accessible by separately housed staircases in front of them. A characteristic feature of the balcony-access type was its longitudinal orientation, with the climatically more favorable side accommodating living areas and the other side providing access to the apartments via the balcony corridors. Brenner continued his work as head of the Bauhaus construction department under Hannes Meyer with the planning of the balcony-access houses for the extension of the Dessau-Törten housing estate. The balcony-access house concept was comprehensively investigated at the Bauhaus as part of architecture lessons, and realized as an apartment block with small residential units offered at affordable rents, reflecting the scientific-functional approach of Hannes Meyer.

In the design of the balcony-access house in Realengo, which features an open gallery on one side and alternating single balconies on the other, a clear similarity becomes visible to the balcony-access houses designed by Brenner and May at the Ebelfeld in Frankfurt am Main (constructed between 1928 and 1930), in terms of both the latter’s conceptual approach and formal composition.

left: Carlos Frederico Ferreira, “Laubenganghaus” (balcony-access house), Realengo, Rio de Janeiro 1940–43, photo: G. E. Kidder Smith, Archiv MoMA, in: Philip Lippincott Goodwin, Brazil Builds, Architecture New And Old 1652-1942, New York, MoMA 1943, p. 128.
right: Anton Brenner, “Laubenganghaus” (balcony-access house), Praunheim, south facade, Frankfurt am Main 1928–30, photo: Johann Friedrich Geist, “Der experimentelle Charakter des Laubenganghauses,” in: Wissenschaftliche Zeitschrift/Hochschule für Architektur und Bauwesen Weimar, Vol. 33, No. 4–6, 1987, p. 252.

Ferreira’s first plans and the settlement in Realengo had an enormous influence on the construction of subsequent settlements in Brazil. In the following years, for example, several worker settlements were built as row-block constructions. Their design objectives were always oriented around the interests of the working-class family, urban planning and architectural renewal, using rational premises and economical construction methods. In this respect, social housing construction was strongly influenced by German Modernism. It is worth noting that the row-block construction method was boycotted by Le Corbusier39 and formed a complete novelty in Brazilian settlement typology, as did workers’ housing of the standardized types—low and mid-rise and later also high-rise buildings. The three and four-story apartment blocks, with symmetrically distributed window areas and balconies on both sides of the vertically marked stairwells, were subsequently taken up in several social housing projects. In particular, the Laubenganghaus type was adopted and further developed in numerous social buildings, as well as in hospitals, university buildings and hotels. Thus, the Pedregulho by Affonso Eduardo Reidy, one of the most beautiful projects of Brazilian modernism , shows a renunciation of standard corridor ingress and egress in favor of an access-gallery solution, shaded with the regional element of the cobogó (a patterned screen often made of cement used to enable greater ventilation and luminosity), and thereby a development of a typology borrowed from Bauhaus architecture and adapted to regional climatic conditions.

When reading through the sources and historiography of modernity in Brazil, the abundance of German names within the country’s design intelligentsia stands out. Additionally, observing the architectural topography of Brazilian cities also indicates that German-speaking architects played a considerable role in the dissemination of modernity. However, questions of attribution as well as the subsequent study of professional biographies, turned out to be problematic. Difficulties in recognizing their diplomas forced many architects of foreign origin to work in Brazilian offices, where their designs were often signed by Brazilian colleagues in order to circumvent difficulties in obtaining building permits.40 As a consequence of the increasing international condemnation of Germany under Hitler, ideas taken from German modernity finally fell into disrepute, erroneously, and were ultimately avoided. Thus, the vitae of the German-speaking actors of Brazilian modernity—due to imposed anonymity in order to protect them from repression—are often not reproducible and even the authorship of some important modern works remain unclear. At the same time, the successful application by Brazilian architects of Le Corbusier’s “Five Points of Architecture” in the MES building (Ministério da Educação e Saúde) in Rio de Janeiro has led Brazilian architectural research to focus on Corbusier and to regard his ideas as the dominant European influence, even in relation to the early phase of modernity.

However, when reviewing the architectural landscape of early modernity analytically, evidence of a significant influence deriving from ideas of the Neues Bauen becomes clear, both in the work of the first pro-modernist immigrant architects, such as Egon Weindoerfer, Julius Lohweg, Georgi Warchavchik, Alexandre Altberg, Alexandre Buddeus, as well as that of Brazilian colleagues or students of the ENBA, such as Luis Nunes, Alfonso E. Ready, Marcelo Roberto, Paulo de Camargo e Almeida or Ricardo Antunes. This lineage is further legitimized by the demonstrable dissemination of Bauhaus-influenced information and technical literature at the time. In many buildings projects attributed to these architects, formal similarities can also be seen in the handling of volumes, architectural details, as well as in the disposition of floor plans. Furthermore, the conceptual approach of Bauhaus architectural theory also gained popularity in Brazilian modernity. The brisk nationwide application of the principles of social housing based on the until then unknown example of row-block construction and typified housing—under the principles of standardization and rationalized construction processes—and their subsequent adaptation to climatic conditions, for example by the shading of open galleries, demonstrates clearly the impact Bauhaus architectural ideas had in Brazil.

This research was partially support by Fundação Biblioteca Nacional, Programa de Apoio à Pesquisa.

  • 1 The corner window is a compositional means that apparently had its beginning in Dessau, cf. Leonardo Benevolo: Geschichte der Architektur des 19. und 20. Jahrhunderts, Callwey, Munich 1964, p. 56. Incidentally, in Brazil these are called “German windows” and were hardly used by Le Corbusier. See Matthias Noell: “‘Choisir entre l´individu et le standard’: The House of Artists by Gropius, Le Corbusier, Van Doesburg, Bill,” in: Isabelle Ewig, Thomas W. Gaehtgens & Matthias Noell (eds.): The Bauhaus and France. 1919–1940 Le Bauhaus et la France (Passagen. Jahrbuch des Deutschen Forums für Kunstgeschichte), vol. 4, Berlin 2002, p. 93. The interaction between closed and open space of wall surfaces and a sun-shadow game is a characteristic element of Gropius’s master houses. See: Norbert Huse: “Neues Bauen” 1918-1933: Modern Architecture in the Weimar Republic, Heinz Moos, Munich 1975, p. 54. On the decentering or hiding of the entrance to the Dessau Bauhaus building, see: Wolfgang Kemp: Analysing Architecture. An introduction to eight chapters, Schirmer Mosel Verlag, Munich 2009, p. 296; The protruding building elements come from the teaching of Axonometrie des De Stijls by Theo van Doesburg at the Bauhaus. See: Ibid: Matthias Noell: „Choisir entre l´individu et le standard”, 2002, p. 92f.
  • 2 Vittorio Magnago Lampugnani: “Die Geschichte der Geschichte der ‘Modernen Bewegung’ in der Architektur 1925–41. Eine kritische Übersicht,” in: Vittorio Magnago Lampugnani und Romana Schneider (eds.), Moderne Architektur in Deutschland 1900 bis 1950. Expressionismus und Neue Sachlichkeit, Hatje Verlag, Stuttgart 1994, pp. 273–295; Annette Bußmann: Zu Adaption und Demontage von Architekturgeschichte im “Neuen Bauen” der Weimarer Republik. Alfred Gellhorn (1885-1972). Bauten, Projekte, Schriften 1920 bis 1933, PhD thesis, Philipps-Universität Marburg, 2003, pp. 4–5; John Zukowsky (ed.): Architektur in Deutschland 1919–1939. Die Vielfalt der Moderne, Prestel Verlag, Munich and New York 1994.
  • 3 According to Costa’s own statement, see: Lucio Costa, Interview with Alexander Fils, Brasilia, “Modern Architecture in Brazil,” September 1984, Düsseldorf 1988, pp. 55 and 132.
  • 4 Besides Gregori Warchavchik and Alexander Buddeus, Alexandre Altberg and Luiz Nunes are among the most important proponents of Bauhaus architecture in Brazil, cf. Joanna Bialobrzeska: Bauhaus-Impulse in Brasilien, PhD thesis, University of Göttingen 2018.
  • 5 Paulo Ferreira Santos: Quatro Séculos de Arquitetura, 2. Edition, IAB, Rio de Janeiro 1981, p. 104.
  • 6 Ibid, p. 104.
  • 7 In the Bauhaus Archive there are over 200 extensive articles dedicated to the Bauhaus, see: Volker Wahl (ed.): Das Staatliche Bauhaus in Weimar. Dokumente zur Geschichte des Instituts 1919–1926, Böhlau Verlag, Cologne and Weimar-Böhlau 2009, p. 313.
  • 8 Moderne Bauformen, Monatshefte für Architektur und Raumkunst, Stuttgart: Hoffmann, in: Biblioteca Paulo Santos, Paço Imperial (RJ), Biblioteca Prof. Alfredo Galvão, EBA-UFRJ (RJ), Biblioteca do MAC (SP); Die Form: Zeitschrift für gestaltende Arbeit, Berlin: Hermann Reckendorf, in: Biblioteca Paulo Santos, Paço Imperial (RJ); Die Bauwelt. Illustrierte Zeitschrift für das gesamte Bauwesen, Berlin: Ullstein Verlag in: Biblioteca Alberto Monteiro de Carvalho. Monteiro Aranha Participações (RJ), EPBC - Esc. Politécnica-Bib Central (SP), FAU - Fac. Arquitetura e Urbanismo (SP); Wasmuths Monatshefte für Baukunst, Berlin: Werner Hegemann, in: Biblioteca Alberto Monteiro de Carvalho. Monteiro Aranha Participações (RJ), Biblioteca Paulo Santos, Paço Imperial (RJ); Deutsche Bauzeitung, Berlin: Komissions-Verlag, in: Instituto Mauá de Tecnologia (SP), Monteiro Aranha Participações S.A. (RJ), Biblioteca do Centro de Tecnologia - UFRJ (RJ); Der Architekt: Wiener Monatshefte für Bauwesen und decorative Kunst, Viena: Anton Schroll & Co, in: Biblioteca Paulo Santos, Paço Imperial (RJ), Biblioteca Alberto Monteiro de Carvalho. Monteiro Aranha Participações (RJ), Biblioteca Prof. Alfredo Galvão, EBA-UFRJ (RJ), Beton und Eisen, Berlin: Wilhelm Ernst & Sohn, in: Biblioteca FAU-UFRJ (RJ), EPBC - Esc. Politécnica-Bib Central (SP), Biblioteca Alberto Monteiro de Carvalho. Monteiro Aranha Participações (RJ), Die Bautechnik - Fachzeitschrift für das gesamte Bauingenieurwesen. Berlin: Wilhelm Ernst & Sohn, in: Biblioteca Alberto Monteiro de Carvalho. Monteiro Aranha Participações (RJ), EESC - Esc. Engenharia de São Carlos (SP), Die Baugilde: Zeitschrift des Bundes Deutscher Architekten - W.& S.Loewenthal, in: Biblioteca Alberto Monteiro de Carvalho. Monteiro Aranha Participações (RJ), Der Bauingenieur. - Zeitschrift für das gesamte Bauwesen, Berlin: Springer - Verlag, in: Biblioteca Alberto Monteiro de Carvalho. Monteiro Aranha Participações (RJ).
  • 9 According to Marquez and Naslavsky, these titles were among those obtained in the 1930s by Luiz Nunes and Joaquim Cardozo. See among other authors: Sonia Marques and Naslavsky Guilah: “Estilo ou causa? Como, quando e onde? Os conceitos e limites da historiografia nacional sobre o Movimento Moderno,” in: Vitruvius, No. 011.06, April 2001, (accessed 19 Feb. 2019).
  • 10 Paulo Ormindo de Azevedo: “Alexander S. Buddeüs: a passagem do cometa pela Bahia,” in: Vitruvius, 081.01, February 2007,; Lucio Costa also remarked: “German publications on architecture have always been very important,” see Lucio Costa, Interview with Alexander Fils, Brasilia, “Modern Architecture in Brazil,” 1988, p. 131.
  • 11 In her research on the reception of the Bauhaus in America, Margret Kentgens-Craig counted over one hundred articles in British and American journals reporting directly on or referring to the Bauhaus between 1919 and 1936. See: Margret Kentgens-Craig: The Bauhaus and America: First Contacts, 1919–1936, MIT Press, Cambridge 2001.
  • 12 Sigfried Giedion: Befreites Wohnen, Orell Füssli Verlag, Zurich and Leipzig 1929, and Sigfried Giedion: Walter Gropius, Crès, Paris 1931; Henry-Russell Hitchcock and Philip C. Johnson: The International Style: Architecture since 1922, W. W. Norton, New York 1932; Le Corbusier-Saugnier, Vers une architecture, G. Crès, Paris 1923; Catherine Bauer, Modern Housing, Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston 1934.
  • 13 José Tavares Correia de Lira: Warchavchik. Fraturas da Vanguarda, Cosac & Naify, São Paulo 2011, p. 190.
  • 14 Ibid., pp. 231–232, p. 242.
  • 15 The first modern periodicals in Brazil published in the 1920s (Klaxon, Estética, Novíssima and Movimento Brasiliero) mainly focused on art and literature.
  • 16 Unattributed author: “A Architectura moderna no velho continente”: in: A Casa, Vol. 76, Nr. 29, August 1930; unattributed author: “A Architectura moderna no velho continente,” in: A Casa, Vol. 77, Nr. 16, September 1930.
  • 17 Alexandre Altberg 1934, p. 127; Armando de Godoy 1933 cited after Clevio Rabelo: Arquitetos na Cidade. Espaços profissionais em Expansão. Rio de Janeiro 1925–35, PhD thesis, FAU-USP, 2011, p. 140.
  • 18 Monteiro A. de Carvalho: “Fotografias e comentários de Viagens,” in: Arquitetura e Urbanismo, Sept./Oct. 1936, pp. 155–157.
  • 19 There are several indications of this, e.g. in Heuberger’s curatorial work. Heuberger also owned a shop where he sold Bauhaus furniture to clients in Brazil.
  • 20 Marcelo S. Masset Lacombe: “Modernismo e Nacionalismo: o jogo das nacionalidades no intercâmbio entre Brasil e Alemanha,” in: Perspectivas, No. 34, 2008, pp. 153–154.
  • 21 Among the most important exhibitions organized by Heuberger were also: 1a Exposição de Arte e Artesanato Alemão, Liceu de Artes e Ofícios do Rio (1924), III Salão da Primavera, Liceu de Artes e Ofícios do Rio (1925), Grande Exposição de Arte Alemã no Brasil, ENBA (1928), Exposição da Deutsche Werkbund, ENBA (1929). See Rabelo: Arquitetos na Cidade, 2011, p. 156.
  • 22 die neue linie was the first German lifestyle magazine (1929-43). In addition to fashion and literature, it also presented architectural trends, especially those with origins in the Bauhaus tradition. The covers illustrations of die neue linie were also designed by various Bauhaus artists, especially the Bauhaus masters Herbert Bayer and László Moholy-Nagy. See also: Patrick Rössler: die neue linie 1929–1943. Das Bauhaus am Kiosk (Bauhaus at the Newspaper Stand), bauhaus-archiv, Museum für Gestaltung and Kerber Verlag, Berlin 2007.
  • 23 Herbert Bayer, cited after Patrick Rössler: “Die visuelle Identität des Weimarer Bauhauses. Strategien und Maßnahmen im Corporate Design,” in: Hellmut Seemann and Thorsten Valk (eds.): Klassik und Avantgarde. Das Bauhaus in Weimar 1919–1925, Wallstein Verlag, Göttingen 2009, p. 379.
  • 24 The vertical or horizontal black beam, already used in the same form in the Bauhaus books, is seen as a characteristic of the style: “Drucksache mit fetten Balken und Grotesklettern: Bauhausstil. alles kleingeschrieben: bauhausstil. ALLES GROSSGESPROCHEN: BAUHAUSSTIL. Bauhausstil: ein Wort für alles.” (Printed matter with bold beams and grotesque climbers: Bauhaus style. all in lower case: bauhaus style. ALL CAPITALIZED: BAUHAUS STYLE. Bauhaus style: one word for everything), see Ernő Kállai 1930, cited after Rössler: Die visuelle Identität,” p. 372.
  • 25 “no Brasil, aonde as idéias ainda eram muito raras ...” Alexandre Altberg: Interview with Liszt Vianna Neto, June 14–15, 2008, São Paulo, see: Liszt Vianna Neto, Modernismo, socialismo e exílio, Alexander Altberg no Rio de Janeiro da Era Vargas (1930-1945), Master’s thesis, UFM, 2014 , p. 197 (own translation).
  • 26 Azevedo: “Buddeus.”
  • 27 Günter Weimer: Arquitetura modernista em Porto Alegre: entre 1930 e 1945, Unidade, Porto Alegre 1998, p. 23.
  • 28 Lira: Warchavchik, p. 225f.
  • 29 Lira also noticed that Warchavchik, especially in the first phase of its effect, was strongly oriented towards the Neue Sachlichkeit. See: Ibid, p. 190.
  • 30 Klaus-Jürgen Winkler: Die Architektur am Bauhaus in Weimar, Verlag für Bauwesen, Berlin 1993, pp. 89–91.
  • 31 Warchavchik conceived both exhibitions of the “modern house” as a Gesamtkunstwerk (synthesis of the arts), based on the model of the Haus am Horn with the associated furniture, including Bauhaus design objects, art and garden design.
  • 32 de Lira: Warchavchik, 2011, pp. 265–267.
  • 33 Nabil Georges Bonduki: Origens da habitação social no Brasil: arquitetura moderna, lei do inquilinato e difusão da casa própria, PhD thesis, FAU-USP, 1998, pp. 180–181.
  • 34 Walter Gropius: “Die soziologischen Grundlagen der Minimalwohnungen für die städtische Industriebevölkerung” (1929), in: Walter Gropius (ed.): Architektur. Wege zu einer optischen Kultur, Fischer Verlag, Frankfurt am Main and Hamburg 1956, p. 91.
  • 35 Vittorio Magnago Lampugnani: Die Stadt im 20. Jahrhundert. Visionen, Entwürfe, Gebautes, Vol. 1, Wagenbach Verlag Berlin 2011, p. 319; Norbert Huse: Neues Bauen 1918–1933. Moderne Architektur in der Weimarer Republik, Heinz Moos Verlag, Munich 1975, p. 91f.
  • 36 Walter Gropius: “Flach-, Mittel- oder Hochbau?” in: Schweizerische Bauzeitung, Vol. 97/98, No. 8, 1931, pp. 95–98.
  • 37 “… nesse bloco o acesso as moradias [...
  • 38 Johann Friedrich Geist: “Der experimentelle Charakter des Laubengangauses,” in: Wissenschaftliche Zeitschrift/Hochschule für Architektur und Bauwesen Weimar, Vol. 33, No. 4–6, 1987, p. 252.
  • 39 The equation of CIAM with Le Corbusier reinforced the erroneous reception of German influences. In so doing, Le Corbusier attacked or ignored the New Frankfurt, the Zeilenbau, and functional approaches in general, which, ad absurdum, leads to the distorted impression of social housing as attributable to the II CIAM and consequently to Le Corbusier.
  • 40 According to Gunter Weimer, after Brazil joined the Allies in the war against Germany, the animosity towards German culture grew to such an extent that some architects lost their title. Gunter Weimer: Arquitetura Popular da Imigração Alemã, UFRGS, Porto Alegre 2005, p. 278.
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