ETH Zürich  |  DARCH  |  ITA  |  Structural Design  |  DOCTORAL THESES  |  BUILDING AND GROUND 
Building and Ground
L. Borgonovi e Silva
2008 - 2016

Gravitation in the Work of João Vilanova Artigas

João Vilanova Artigas (1915-1985) was one of the major thinkers of Brazilian architecture. Engineer and architect, he witnessed the intense industrialization process that took place in the city of São Paulo in the twentieth century. Focused on the rapid changing urban landscape and on the possibilities offered by new construction materials – especially reinforced concrete – his designs were mostly built of large and prismatic roofs supported by strongly oblique and sometimes slender structural elements. Although highly concerned with the physical properties of building materials and with the mechanics of structures, Vilanova Artigas also aimed at addressing a clash of social forces that he saw as a motif for his designs. He believed that architecture could express the societal dramas of his time, largely through a structural design that dialectically opposed the force of gravity, thus revealing a confrontation of forces. Some of his exemplary designs feature a direct contact between roof and foundations, mostly dispensing with load bearing walls and column shafts.
Gravitation, which inevitably binds building and ground, turns out to be in the core of his tectonics. As a primal force that governs structural behaviour, it might have been a vehicle for merging mechanical performance and social concerns in Vilanova Artigas’s designs. Particularlly important for the present study is the investigation of if and how could he communicate abstract ideas – such as the confrontation of forces or the dialectical opposition to gravity – through building structures. Such a research is now being undertaken and constitutes a major issue for a deeper understanding of his works.

last modified 30.10.2015