Document Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Urban Systems - (Ph.D.)


New Jersey School of Architecture

First Advisor

Gabrielle M. Esperdy

Second Advisor

Rosanna Dent

Third Advisor

Fernando Luiz Lara

Fourth Advisor

Sean T. Mitchell


The conceptual framework of Brazilian national identity in built form changed drastically between the 1930s and the 1960s, from the Baroque of colonial-era Brazil to the improvised constructions of the poor. The advocates of these architectural imaginaries were not suggesting that these styles be copied. Instead, they used them as a type of hermeneutic for explicating how Modernism should be deployed in order for it to be authentically Brazilian. The transition from the colonial model to an aesthetics of poverty was a result of a confluence of factors. These included the country’s relatively new struggle to define itself away from Portugal; the arrival of new European immigrants; growing anxiety about cultural colonization by the United States; unstable economic and political circumstances; and the questioning of the nation’s myth of racial democracy.

This dissertation traces the attribution of Brasilidade, i.e., Brazilian-ness, to various architectural forms between 1922, the year of an event popularly viewed as the emergence of Modernism in Brazil, and 1968, a year of particular importance in the country’s political and architectural life. Regional and racial discourses, themselves closely related, are critical to understanding this shift in conceptualizing Modernism. Accordingly, this study moves among locations, identifying the mutual influences between the southern centers of power, Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, and two cities in the Northeast, Recife and Salvador. The evolution of architectural Brasilidade is told through four figures: Mario de Andrade (1893–1945), Lucio Costa (1902–88), Gilberto Freyre (1900–87), and Lina Bo Bardi (1914–92). The development of mass media, and the fields of anthropology and preservation as tools of observation and regulation influenced each of these actors as they articulated a nationalist polemic based on class, race, and region.



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