Joao Filgueiras Lima - Lelé in front of the Hospital Rede Sarah Kubitschek, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Photo: 2008 Moscow/Revista AU
Exhibition | NAI Rotterdam - Gallery 3 | 13/10/12-10/02/13
In the exhibition ‘Lelé – Architect of Health and
Happiness’ visitors encounter the inspiring work of Brazilian architect João
Filgueiras Lima (affectionately known as Lelé), whose practice focuses on
designing a healthier society. Visitors flocked to the opening, underlining the
relevance and inspiring power of the work of the relatively little-known Lelé. His
functional approach to design and construction always centres on the users’ needs.
strives for tangible, inventive solutions to fundamental social issues. His
commitment to social improvement has shaped his entire output, from walkways in
favelas to entire hospitals. Taking visitors through the designs spanning a
fifty-year career, the exhibition unfolds the development of Lelé’s ideas. His
projects come to life in photos, texts and models. The exhibition at the
Netherlands Architecture Institute runs until 10 February 2013.
"[...] this colleague, a great master of architecture, but so human and modest that he still finds time to see friends, have a chat, play his sambas, because, just like I do, he knows that this is much more important than architecture." - Oscar Niemeyer, architect
The architect João Filgueiras Lima, nicknamed Lelé, is less well-known than his countrymen Oscar Niemeyer and Lucio Costa. He began his career alongside them, helping to build the country’s new capital city, Brasília. But Lelé was also a huge influence in transforming Brazilian construction. Brasilia needed to be built within a very tight time-frame; Lelé developed functional and cost-effective construction methods to facilitate fast – and high quality - buildings. He developed standardized construction modules which were mass-produced and fast and easy to assemble on-site.
Lelé used this technique in his designs for small village schools in the Brazilian hinterland. Local people were able to use the architect’s prefabricated modules to erect the buildings themselves. Lelé also built little bridges and stairways in favelas which not only improved access to hilly areas, but simultaneously served as a sewage system. This ultimately led to the design of large pedestrian bridges or passarelas, which connected communities on opposite sides of broad highways.
“One look at some images of the Rio de Janeiro and Fortaleza buildings […] is enough to admire the architect, who brought light, green and modernity to healing venues.” - Paula Alvarado, Treehugger.com
After his wife was injured in a car accident, Lelé spent a great deal of time in hospitals where he saw at first hand the ‘terrible conditions’ that were rife in Brazilian hospitals. This marked the architect’s biggest and most ambitious challenge: to design a new kind of hospital, filled with light and air. The project didn’t stop at buildings – Lelé also developed entirely new, integrated healthcare concepts, working in close consultation with medical doctors. The hospital building, and the furnishings and appliances, also designed by Lelé, became part of the healing process.
"Architects should be clearer about what their services are. We are the ones who have to promote our integrity! I would say that our integrity is related to the technical rather than the artistic side. Clients expect an architect to do more than create an attractive design – he has to solve all the construction issues and invent smart solutions the client wouldn’t be able to come up with. “- Lelé
The exhibition highlights the depth and breadth of Lelé’s work – from prefabricated constructions, schools, and interventions in favelas, to pedestrian walkways and hospitals. Posters and models steer the visitor through Lelé’s oeuvre. And visitors can also discover how Lelé himself regarded his work – the exhibition includes quotations from Lelé in which he reflects on his personal and professional development. The presentation also features the standardized construction methods that Lelé developed in the form of a number of technical models and drawings. Lelé’s vision and approach are eloquently revealed in his designs for a series of hospitals. A timeline charting every project in the architect’s fifty-year career gives an indication of his enormous output. And, finally, the man himself makes an appearance in a video recorded in 2012, in which he talks about his work.
‘Lelé – Architect of Health and Happiness’ is an exhibition organised by the Technical University of Delft, the Casa Brasileira Museum in Sao Paulo and the Netherlands Architecture Institute, and is curated by Max Risselada, Giancarlo Latorraca and Jorn Konijn.
Lelé at work. Photo: Instituto Lina Bo e P. M. Bardi, from the publication: João Filgueiras Lima - Lelé, Publisher: Blau.
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