The Thousand-day Railroad
Carlos M Teixeira
In the early 70s, the military regime then in power in Brazil conducted preliminary studies for the construction of a new railroad connecting Belo Horizonte, Rio and São Paulo. The results were published with fanfare in the press, where the project, officially called the Steel Railway, was nicknamed “The Thousand-day Railroad”, a reference to the expected construction timeframe.
Stretching over 834 kilometers, the technical standards were to be “first-world”: two-way tracks, high-speed bends, a maximum slope ratio of 1% and electrification. The economy was growing at upwards of 10% a year during the period 1968-1974, and forecasts were for sustained rates of 8% per annum until 1980. Demand for mineral transportation grew by 29.5% a year between 1973 and 1976, and such promising expectations for development left President Ernesto Geisel concerned that ore-traffic would hit gridlock, threatening supply to the steel mills in the southeast and compromising commitments already assumed for the exportation of this raw material.
A free reference we’ve used to structure our “The grid: landscape of colonizing voids” (see post below), “Along the river…” is a scroll painting made by Chinese artist Zhang Zeduan in the 12th century during the Song dinasty. In its length there are 814 humans, 28 boats, 60 animals, 30 buildings, 20 vehicles, 8 sedan chairs and 170 trees.
Misunderstandings – exhibition of which we are participating at Le Frac Centre, Orleans, France – is, according to its organizers, “a procedure for defining areas of non-knowledge in the collection, and thus proceeding to its re-definition, re-reading and re-writing.”
“Putting a collection together involves a permanent practice of translating absences. First of all, there are the absences intrinsic to the very act of collecting. Putting a collection together is a matter of sorting and choosing, and as such it is an act of externalization. An endless de-territorialization. Then a collection is also fragments. We retain “scraps” of things from moments of history. The collection hides more than it shows.
“The symposium will present and question the project undertaken by CAMPO to read and react to the collection of the Frac Centre Val de Loire through the following reading grid: Fear/Structure, Hope/System, Nostalgia/Form, and Surprise/Limit. For this construct, the vocabulary of architecture is as if transported elsewhere, as if impaired by human emotions.”
The event will be in English and will take place on
March 3, 2017
At the Frac Centre Val de Loire
More info at http://www.frac-centre.fr/_en/misunderstandings-846.html
“Herbs, vegetables, strange flowers and rogue weeds pioneer tiny cracks in the urban landscape.”
CMG Landscape Architecture
The Crack Garden, made by the Californian office CMG Landscape Architecture, was one of the works awarded in the ASLA 2009 Professional Awards, the present award of the American Society of Landscape Artists. The idea is interesting and contrasts with the other awarded proposals; most of them being conventional and/or sumptuous. Flowers, weeds and grass usually grow between the cracks of the ground in backyards and sidewalks, but here the cracks were intentionally made, reproducing at home traces of uncontrolled landscapes.
The cities’ dense areas are full of unnoticed urban voids: one example is the many core of blocks that unfortunately go without any use. This block (pictured) in downtown BH is an example of how easy it would be to convert emptiness into a square. In it they planted some trees that seek to survive, but with little additional investment this terrace will become an unprecedented leisure area that would balance the aridity and lack of public spaces of the Center.
Protected by twenty-story buildings, it is not difficult to imagine here a living area or a terrace bar surrounded by an urban setting that, if it seems melancholy and decadent, is also very promising.
Photos: Rua Goitacazes 103, Belo Horizonte
Had it been the view that effectvly shaped and changed urban rivers all over the world, we would be living in cities of linear parks and not in cities of covered rivers:
Map of the ancient courses of the Mississipi river meander belt by Harold Fisk, 1944. The drawing was made when another view of the river was being coined, one that “the river needs more room which should be given to it laterally rather than vertically”.
In Arunadha Mathur and Dilip da Cunha, “Mississipi Floods”, Yale Press, 2001.
In a world where water use is increasingly discussed, it is surprising to know that the stepwells of Rajasthan and Gujarat are structures as fabulous as they are unknown.
Carlos M Teixeira
“My first impression upon seeing the Indian stepwells was this: they look like a reverie of inverted steps and levels, a descent into the depths of the desert every bit as disconcerting as a plunge into the abyss. Rendered all the starker by the play of light and shade, these flights of steps form an architectonic mantra of stunning visual effect, endowing the stairways with a vertiginous rhythm, repeating a pattern that boggles for its scale and multiplication, as if reproduced ad infinitum in a hall of mirrors.
“How do these endless stairways serve a function at once so practical and poetic? How can such sublime constructions be so unknown, even in India? Why is it the ingenuity that blended use and fantasy this seamlessly is hardly ever seen in our modern-day constructions? Imagine how wonderful it would be if, as in this example from a time and space so remote, our techniques for the use and storage of water were to be reinvented in such a way as restored our rapport with water and the city’s rivers. (more…)
We live in a time when the transformation of the existing is more important than new constructions; in which we urgently need to turn our eyes to the problems of our cities which have been ignored by past generations.
It is from this perspective that Over-Arrudas (pictured) fits: a project that celebrates this river in Belo Horizonte, transforming it into an event capable of changing the way we see the natural resources to which we turned our backs.
A temporary square open to festivals, discussions and dissent, Over-Arrudas was presented, without success, to the municipality of Belo Horizonte. That is why we are now working on the feasibility of a similar project proposed for another city: the Over-Aricanduva project in the East Zone of São Paulo (see next post).
+info: Projects Under-Arrudas and Over-Aricanduva in Vazio S/A website
The exhibition “Misunderstandings”, held jointly by Campo gallery (Rome) and Le FRAC Center (Orleans, France), was intended as an experiment on what should be a historical collection and how contemporary architectural practice can approach it.
To do so, twelve architects and artists were invited by curators Gianfranco Bombaci, Matteo Costanzo, Luca Galofaro and Davide Sacconi to make a project from a drawing chosen from the Le FRAC collection. Guided only by the conceptual and plastic power of the drawings, the interpretation was open to all “misunderstandings”, such as scientific errors and historical inadequacies, to embody creative and fertile narratives.
One of the twelve works that make up the show is our “The Grid”. We publish here parts of this four-meter long drawing, on show until January 13 in Campo and until April 2 in Le Frac Center. The sequence was made from a diptych provided by the curators in which we made interventions to create a “stiltet” landscape that corrupts the original design and celebrates incompleteness.
The following is an excerpt from the text we presented at the exhibition:
“The better futures of the existent city are in latent fields that simply need to be developed and enlarged. The “concrete palafittes” – a widespread architectural accident in Belo Horizonte and many other hilly cities in Brazil – are a corrupter of a well-known object – the grid – that clash against modernist architecture origins: it demystifies style to create an object that escapes and despises the pure morality and ethical uniformity of its creators. (more…)
In a country of cities explicitly dominated and regulated by the private realm, architecture critic Abílio Guerra makes a sharp note on three of the very few open blocks of São Paulo, where public and private space don’t confront each other, but instead work in symbiosis:
Quadra Aberta: uma tipologia urbana rara em São Paulo
Christian de Portzamparc, em texto já clássico no meio arquitetônico brasileiro, defende a quadra aberta como uma solução contemporânea para os grandes aglomerados urbanos. Segundo o arquiteto francês, seria uma conciliação entre as cidades da primeira e segunda eras, abrindo as portas para a terceira era da cidade. Uma conciliação entre as qualidades da rua-corredor da cidade tradicional e dos edifícios autônomos da cidade moderna. Estamos diante de um urbanismo de síntese, aonde a resultante “quadra aberta permite reinventar a rua: legível e ao mesmo tempo realçada por aberturas visuais e pela luz do sol. Os objetos continuam sempre autônomos, mas ligados entre eles por regras que impõem vazios e alinhamentos parciais. Formas individuais e formas coletivas coexistem. Uma arquitetura moderna, isto é, uma arquitetura relativamente livre de convenção, de volumetria, de modenatura, pode desabrochar sem ser contida por um exercício de fachada imposto entre duas fachadas contíguas” (Portzampark, 1997) (more…)
Good news for hard times, the (much appropriated) title of the last issue of V!rus, has just been published. The magazine is edited by Nomads / USP (University of Sao Paulo); Vazio S/A appears with a text about our project Other Territories, which may happen this year.