Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Art History


Marta Gutman

Committee Members

Anna Indych Lopez

Katherine Manthorne

Bruno Carvalho

Fernando Lara

Subject Categories

Architectural History and Criticism | Fine Arts | History of Art, Architecture, and Archaeology | Latin American History | Latin American Languages and Societies | Latin American Literature | Latina/o Studies | Modern Art and Architecture | Theory and Criticism | Urban, Community and Regional Planning


Art, Architecture, Urbanism, Brazil, Latin America, Decolonial


This dissertation deploys a multidisciplinary and decolonial framework to investigate the architecture of cortiços, the Favela Hill, the Castelo Hill, and the Ministry of Education and Public Health (MES) building as constitutive of the history of modernization and modernity in the Centro (city center) of Rio de Janeiro, 1811-1945. The first three chapters investigate the distinct geographies, formal and material qualities, and populations of cortiços, the Favela Hill, and the Castelo Hill, as well as their racialization and essentialization by the “unsanitary” and “degenerate” labels bestowed upon these landscapes by the state. Traditional narratives and practices of modern architecture and urban planning in Rio typically position these landscapes in contrast to the modernist architecture of the MES building, the subject of the fourth chapter. Instead, by situating the history of modernization and modernity in the Centro within a longer historical trajectory, rooted in Brazilian colonial history, spanning the period from the construction of Valongo Wharf to the end of the Estado Novo dictatorship, this dissertation argues that cortiços, the Favela Hill, the Castelo Hill, and the MES building were all integral to the invention and built environment of the modern capital. By placing the histories of informal and formal city building within the history of modernization of the Centro, this study fills a gap in the history of Brazilian modernism and contributes to the critical reflection on the racialized epistemologies of colonialist and Corbusian legacies that frame incomplete histories of architecture and modernity in Brazil.

This work is embargoed and will be available for download on Sunday, June 09, 2024

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