Gustavo Capanema Palace

Gustavo Capanema Palace, Rio de Janeiro - Brazil, Lucio Costa, Affonso Eduardo Reidy, Le Corbusier, Carlos Leão
Construction year: 1943
Address: Rua da Imprensa, 16 | RIO DE JANEIRO | Brazil
Latitude/Longitude: -22.90884, -43.17366

The Gustavo Capanema Palace, also known architecturally as the Ministry of Education and Health Building, is a government office building in the Centro district of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Gustavo Capanema Palace is named after author and educator Gustavo Capanema, who was the first Minister of Education of Brazil. It is located at Rua da Imprensa, 16, in the downtown Rio area of Castelo. Delighted with the shape of Guanabara Bay, Corbusier suggested that the building should be located next to the sea, instead of on an inner downtown street, but the government declined.

Gustavo Capanema Palace was extremely bold for the time. It was the first modernist public building in the Americas, and on a much larger scale than anything Le Corbusier had built until then. Modernism as an aesthetic movement had a great impact in Brazil, and the building—which housed the office charged with cultivating Brazilian formal culture—included various elements of the movement. It also employed local materials and techniques, such as azulejos, blue and white glazed tiles linked to the Portuguese Colonial tradition, in modern wall murals.

Despite being a large office building of 15 stories, the structure has a distinct lightness to it, as it is raised 3 metres above the sidewalk on pilotis (pillars) with access unobstructed from surrounding sidewalks and pedestrian areas. The building embraces bold colours and contrasts of right angles and flowing curves, such as the vitreous blue curving structures on the roof hiding the water tanks and elevator machinery. An internal concrete frame allowed the two broad sides of the building to be entirely of glass. Tropical sunshine on northern glass walls is controlled by Corbusian brises-soleil (sun-shades) made adjustable in a system that was the first of its kind in the world.

Modernist tropical gardens were laid out by the great landscape architect Roberto Burle Marx, and included native plants of Brazil the plant pallete, unique at the time. A midlevel roof garden was designed to be seen ‘in plan view’ from the many floors of office windows above. Trees at ground level included majestic Imperial Palms.

The building also included specially commissioned works of other Brazilian artists. Most notable are the mural tiles outside and large wall paintings inside by Cândido Portinari, Brazil’s most famous painter.

Photos contributed by Plínio Dondon.

⇒ Architecture Guide to RIO DE JANEIRO
⇒ Learn more about: