Designing Pan-America: U.S. Architectural Visions
Monolito Magazine Series
O’Neil Ford Monographs + Duographs
for the Western Hemisphere
Edited by Fernando Serapião
Ernst Wasmuth Verlag GmbH & Co. (2008–2011)
Robert Alexander González, AIA
Editora Monolito, São Paulo, Brazil
University of Texas Press (2011)
28 Texas Architect
After being the darling of post-World War II architectural publications, Brazilian architecture all but disappeared from the radar between the 1970s and ’90s. Recently, however, a significant number of books and articles have been written about Brazil, the majority of them still revolving around the masterpieces built around the mid-20th century. With so little actually known about contemporary Brazilian architects beyond the flashy images available on the Internet, the Monolito magazine series, edited by Fernando Serapião, is an awaited enterprise. An experienced editor and critic, Serapião focuses each Monolito (there are already 14 editions) on a single studio and/or architect. Inviting the best Brazilian critics to write, and devoting a lot of attention to the drawings and photos, Serapião has made the Monolito series the best source of information on the latest Brazilian talents. The fact that Monolito is bilingual (in Portuguese and English) ensures that the quality and ingenuity of what is being built in Brazil right now is reaching a wide audience. Fernando Lara
For years, The University of Texas at Austin and its Teresa Lozano Long Institute of Latin American Studies (LLILAS) have been aggressively staking a claim as a major destination for the study of the Americas by assembling a legendary library collection, sponsoring a multitude of programs, and recruiting scholars across all disciplines whose research focuses on Latin America. The UT Austin School of Architecture has contributed greatly to the effort by hosting the excellent series of “Latitudes” conferences and publishing the O’Neil Ford series of architectural monographs and duographs through the Center for American Architecture and Design and the O’Neil Ford Chair in Architecture. and the handsomelyproduced publications display an editorial predilection for abstraction, formal clarity, and tectonic integrity. Appropriately, the first four “O’Neil Ford Duographs” (O’NFD) focus on Chile, Brazil, Argentina, and Mexico, the four countries that have made the most significant contributions to modern architecture in Latin America. Rather than providing an architectural overview of these countries, each of the duographs carefully chooses two projects to highlight the architectural culture of each country — often showcasing projects that are barely known in the rest of the world.
Both the conferences
PHOTOS BY ELIZABETH HACKLER.
It is now clear that five centuries of Eurocentric perspectives have imposed an understanding of the American continents that highlights our differences rather than our similarities. This book by Robert González, AIA, makes an important contribution to understanding the role that architecture plays in constructing such identities. The book starts with the design of the headquarters of the Pan-American Union (now the Organization of American States) in Washington D.C. (1910–1915). Criticized by many outside of the U.S. for its patronizing views towards its southern neighbors, the proponents of Pan Americanism responded in the mid-1920s by sponsoring a competition for a lighthouse in honor of Columbus to be built in the Dominican Republic. The chapter that analyzes the competition is the best of the book. The debates and intrigues that followed the Columbus lighthouse are quite elucidating and surprisingly contemporary. Also very interesting, especially for Texas readers, is the chapter about HemisFair, the not-so-successful world’s fair that San Antonio built in record time in 1968. The complex, a contradictory and often disjunctive idea of Pan America, as seen through the lens of the architecture described in González’ narrative, is a good place to start this important conversation.