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Social Progressive

Vilanova Artigas and Mendes da Rocha promoted the idea that cities should be more human and accessible.

Cine Comuni_05_2JG1854_1João Batista Vilanova Artigas and Paulo Mendes da Rocha were professors at the School of Architecture and Urban Studies (FAU-USP) and advocates of a progressive architecture that was socially responsible and who left in their wake an agenda for Brazil. Artigas is considered to have been a central figure in the so-called “São Paulo architecture,” that flourished during the turbulent years of the 1960s and 1970s. He was responsible for the symbolic building occupied by the FAU, which was designed to be an edifice that cannot be closed up and that encourages people to engage in fellowship with each other. “You become infected by the shape, and so no one who studies there can produce mediocre, insignificant architecture,” says Professor Alvaro Puntoni, who worked at the Vilanova Artigas Foundation. Puntoni’s “master” was the proponent of a unique, humanistic way of teaching the subject, based on the principal of “calling upon the necessary bodies of knowledge (philosophical and technological) and with a very clear idea of generosity and the duty to share that knowledge with new generations.” For his part, Mendes da Rocha, one of the most recognized disciples of Artigas’s work, was the second Brazilian to win the Pritzker Architecture Prize, the world’s most important award in architecture, in 2006—the first was Oscar Niemeyer. The award served as recognition of the importance of São Paulo architecture, which placed greater emphasis on intelligent construction and less on exuberant forms. Professor Milton Braga, also from the FAU, had already worked with Mendes da Rocha on projects ranging from the Avenida Rebouças corridor in 1995, to the 18-story SESC 24 de Maio building under construction in the historical center of São Paulo. “He was always concerned about technical construction in Brazil. If in the 20th century there was regional disorganization, the 21st century agenda that calls for a focus on the major cities persists,” he explains. In other words, the teachings of “masters” like Artigas and Mendes da Rocha left to subsequent generations the lesson that it’s not enough to build houses; we have to equip cities with sufficient transportation, accessible sidewalks, and an attractive urban environment so that they can be more human.