Wednesday, March 28, 2012
More than g-strings and sex changes
The strange tilt mirrors the natural formation to it's right (Sugarloaf Mountain). It is nature regularized. Perhaps an explicit reference to the doctrine of the rational imposition of order upon nature, defying it or improving it. Something Gid's been looking at in the checkerboard motifs, echoed in images of regular furrows in plowed fields and perpendicular fences, perhaps as a reflection of a Pietist doctrine. Perhaps this also implies the doctrine of human perfectibility. It would also imply a civilizing mission....
The theology of turning the wilderness into a garden has most explicitly been vocalized by Protestants, but this idea was also present in Catholic thinking, excited by the discovery of the New World. Which is what this pyramid celebrates: it is a monument to Estácio de Sá (1520-1567), the Portguese soldier who founded Rio de Janeiro. Rio, like many another New World burg, doesn't have an origin lost in the mists of time, thus given a mythical founding. Romulus and Remus for Rome. Isis for Paris. No. In the Americas we have dates, concrete starting points for cities founded out of whole cloth, laid out in orderly grids. The utopian impulse in urban planning. The fresh start. Regeneration. "Order and Progress" as the flag of Brazil states. Rationality and improvement, the themes we began with.
Now, I might be willing to write this monument off as just another pyramaid, albeit one with a nifty lilt; nothing esoteric here, folks....but damn it all if this one doesn't have, like our old friend in Blagnac, 13 layers. I'm sorry, but artists and architects mean something. This isn't just random chance, coincidence. This pyramid is trying to communicate something. Given that 13 colonies formed the basis of that utopian experiment of order and progress to the north, it's hard not to create a link. Weaving spiders and whatnot.
Before the pyramid is a glass triangle on the ground which lets light into an underground "crypt", where a reproduction of Sá's tomb, the city seal and sand is illuminated from above. (A picture of this can be found here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/leonardomartins/5770910215/).
No need to go back into the solar connections of the pyramid, obelisk and pyramidion, but this aspect of the monument does call to mind the Voortrekker monument, which also has a cenotaph illuminated from above by natural sunlight. The Voortrekker Monument also celebrates a hearty band of colonists looking to create a new life out of whole cloth and more specifically, a group which thought it had a special covenant with God. In addition to the theology of human improvement and the mastery over nature, New World theology is also one of covenant theology. You'll have to take my word for that.
This Sá monument was designed by Lúcio Costa, a Brazilian architect in love with modernismwho privileged Brazil's Portuguese architectural heritage over the contributions of other cultures, resulting in losing a significant amount of non-Portuguese urban architecture over the years he held sway in these matters. Costa, incidentally, was the chief designer of Brasilia, capital of Brazil. Brasilia holds the distinction of being the world's only major metropolis inexistent at the beginning of the 20th century. It was designed and constructed where nothing had existed before, rife with utopian idealism, much like the early colonial cities of the New World.
Costa lived to ripe old age, a visionary, a schemer and a political hack. Sá died at 46 after an arrow went through his eye.