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The Movement of Modern Brazilian Design

A week of Modern Art in 1922 birthed the Brazilian Modernism movement which was further propelled by Le Corbusier’s whirlwind travels through South America in the 1920s. French was the most widely spoken foreign language and architects flooded to the movement. The end of WWII gave rise to an influx of Europeans to Brazil, precipitating a cultural exchange which continues today.

Rio de Janeiro became “Le Corbusier territory” as he engaged in a multitude of projects with Oscar Niemeyer. Their conjoined projects extended to the United Nations headquarters in New York City.

Modernists Mies Van der Rohe and Walter Gropius influenced, and Le Curbosier personally inspired architects Lúcio Costa and Oscar Niemeyer who designed Brasília. The civic center is the world’s largest modernist work for which furniture designer Sérgio Rodrigues installed the interiors.

Lina Bo Bardi, schooled in Italian rationalism, and other European architects, became immersed in Brazilian culture. Their designs began to reflect the vibrant and organic lifestyle— a Brazilian way called Brasilidade. Rather than a fraught collision of cultures, the resulting global influence and anti-colonialism movement birthed a solid Brazilian nationalism—the first country with a distinctive nationalist style.

Joaquim Tenreiro refined the coexistence of traditional values and modern aesthetics, reflecting the Brazilian cultural milieu.

Forms adapted to the human body from locally available resources with references to both European and colloquial Brazilian.

Said Oscar Niemeyer, “I am not attracted to straight angles or to the straight line, hard and inflexible, created by man. I am attracted to free-flowing, sensual curves. The curves that I find in the mountains of my country, in the sinuousness of its rivers, in the waves of the ocean…”

In recent years, Rodrigues (2002 Museu da Casa Brasileira), Pires (2003 Museu da Casa Brasileira), and Mendes de Rocha
(2006 Pritzker), won high honors for their designs reflecting the curves and comfort that is Brasilidade.

According to art historian Zeuler R. Lima, “Emerging and leading furniture designers today have critically embraced the legacy left by twentieth century pioneers. Pires’ prolific work advances the thoughtful craft of mid-century modern furniture. Domingos Tótora…is in direct dialogue with the mountainous landscape that surrounds the small town of Maria da Fé in the state of Minas Gerais. Guilherme Wentz’s work promotes delicate associations between organic and industrial forms and materials.”

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Lc4 Chaise Lounge

Le Corbusier


Barcelona Chair

Ludwig Mies Van Der Rohe


Le Corbusier Lectured in
Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo
Designed Urban Scapes for both Cities


Eliel Saarinen Juried International Competition in Rio de Janeiro


Bo Bardi and European Architects Immigrated to Brazil – Post-WWII


Rocking Chaise Lounge

Joaquim Tenreiro


Niemeyer and Le Corbusier Collaborate United Nations HQ in NYC


Bowl Chair

Lina Bo Bardi


Tulip Chair

Eero Saarinen


Paulistano Chair

Paulo Mendes Da Rocha


Mole Lounge Chair

Sergio Rodrigues


Brasilia Civic Center by Niemeyer, Furnished by Rodrigues


Rio Rocking Chair

Oscar and Anna Maria Niemeyer


Diz Lounge Armchair

Sergio Rodrigues


Gisele Lounge Chair

Aristeu Pires


Mesa Agua

Domingos Totora


Corda Pendant Lamp

Guilherme Wentz


Clearly, there is a hunger for Brazilian Modernism that we never knew we had.

Cindy Allen

Editor in Chief of Interior Design

Return To The Start
Brazilian Modernism - 1922 - 1945
Bauhaus School - 1919 - 1933
Le Corbusier Influences in Brazil - 1920 - 1940
Mid-Century Modern- 1945 - 1975
Scandinvaian Modern - 1930 - 1970
Advance Modern Brazilian Design- 2001 - Present Rodrigues, Mendes da Rocha, Pires