Day 32 :: Eladio Dieste

Eladio Dieste’s most seminal work, Iglesia Cristo Obrero.

Last night Juan (a young architect I had made the acquaintance of last night) and I made plans to meet at his place in the morning. When I got there we took some bicycles and he showed me around town, pointing out where to go, where the city was hiding its projects from the Modernists to the present day – all things which I will trek down and revisit tomorrow for a closer look. We got back to his apartment where we were joined by his partner Mathias and his fiance Ana made us a great lunch before we went off in search of Eladio Dieste.

Through some research online I came across an older Uruguayan architect by the name of Marcelo Cordora – an insanely well-informed and generous man in his forties who is just a wealth of knowledge, from politics and history, to architecture and the world at large. We discussed my arrival to his city some weeks before and he offered to drive me to see projects that may otherwise be out of my reach. With forays to the rest of the Americas and Europe, and a son of two architects, we had a lot to discuss. He graciously offered to drive my new friends and myself out to the city of Atlantida, some 50km along the Atlantic Coast north of Montevideo. Enter the ‘Greg Lynn-before-there-was-Greg Lynn’ of South America. When you see the rest of Dieste’s oevre, for the most part, you would be disappointed at the repetition of forms and techniques deployed by this engineer-turned-architect (don’t utter the word Calatrava). This project, however, is outstanding. A good quote by the man in question:

There is nothing more noble and elegant from an intellectual viewpoint than this; resistance through form.”

After an excited romp around the site we jumped back into the car and drove some 10km further north to a town called Soca where an almost totally unknown chapel sits, in memory of an Uruguyan/French poet – most of my South American friends have never heard of this project by Bolet. As we pulled up to the property, wired fences blocked all possible forms of entry; we came to a part that was a bit loose and Marcelo urged, “what’s the worst that could happen?” And so we climbed our way in. As we took our photographs the gate keeper came out from the back of his little house in the back and began questioning us; now to side track for a second, through some architects in Buenos Aires I learned that this guy was the bribing kind. I whispered to Marcelo to offer him money to let us inside the mausoleum for which he did, and we were granted entry. Pictures of this project will come tomorrow, but rest assured its the most occult example of religo-modernism you can find.

Some hours later I was ‘comfortably’ nestled back in the bosom of my hostel.

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