Garden Cities in Brazil
The Garden City movement was highly influential across South America and in Brazil produced some notable examples of garden city inspired settlements. Garden suburbs made their first appearance in Brazil in the 1910s and in later years a number of larger garden city settlements were planned, designed, and built. These modern ‘English’ designs were not responding to industrialised overcrowding but nonetheless were adopted as a physical planning model if not according to Howard’s land stewardship principles.
Established in 1917 Jardim América is perhaps the most famous garden city inspired example in Brazil and was designed by Barry Parker in a suburb of São Paulo. The picturesque suburb plan featured boulevards and curving avenues lined with Jacarandah trees, with low density, detached family housing appealing to and affordable by upper middle class residents. There were departures from the Letchworth model as Renato Leão Rego (2014) points out, no-one wanted to maintain communal gardens given the historical association between gardening and manual labour in a formerly slave owning society.
Jardim America influenced a range of other garden suburb designs including for Jardim Paulista, Jardim Europa and Alto da Lapa and other São Paulo neighbourhoods as well as in other Brazilian cities.
Jardim Shangri-lá was developed in 1952 in the northern Brazilian state of Paraná in the city of Londrina, itself a new town from the 1930s that Rego (2014) points out was undergoing massive growth due to economic success post-war based on trading and coffee growing. Rego (2014) notes that “Culturally tied to the Brazilian metropolis (of São Paulo), the affluent local elite contacted the civil engineer Francisco Prestes Maia (1896–1965), former mayor of São Paulo, to prepare a master plan to regulate urban sprawling. Maia introduced several new planning notions and practices, particularly ‘‘the radio-concentric systems of avenues; the multi nuclei structure with secondary centers for regional commerce; functional zoning; and ‘ideas of neighborhood unit [originally in English], garden-cities, garden-suburbs, linear cities and other urban models relating to the organization and grouping of buildings”.’
The Jardim Shangri-lá itself was the city’s first garden suburb, designed by Léo Ribeiro de Moraes with a residential character again appealing to an upper middle and upper class residential market. In contrast to the conventional grid plan, Jardim Shangri-lá had landscaped meandering streets, but also modernist style architecture rather than the cosy arts and crafts styles more often associated with garden cities and suburbs.
Águas de São Pedro
The spa town of Águas de São Pedro was another kind of garden settlement stemming from the jardin anglais style which echoed what Rego calls the ‘arranged disorder’ of the English village. Such spas tended to meld city and country elements which was in a design sense reflective of the garden city model. The garden town of Águas de São Pedro was designed by the civil engineer, Jorge de Macedo Vieira (1894–1978), who had worked with Barry Parker as a graduate and had previously design a number of garden suburbs in São Paulo (Rego, 2014).
The town was primarily residential with a small commercial area and was laid out with very substantial green park and walking areas, a 100-metre wide boulevards and winding tree-lined avenues and a canal. The set-back housing was either detached or semi-detached and two or fewer stories high. An unusual feature was a series of small parks on the edges of irregular blocks while internal semi-communal gardens were omitted given the issues with upkeep found in other Brazilian garden suburb examples. The town’s design was also notable for undergrounding electricity cables so that they did not interfere with tree cover and green landscapes, and for the use of roundabouts (first employed at Letchworth Garden City).
Today the city has a strong tourism base and retains many of its garden city features including its division into four ‘jardim’ neighbourhoods named in the local Tupi-Guarani language. It has recently been selected by a Telecoms company to become Brazil’s first digital city.
This garden town was developed in Brazil’s northern state of Paraná, in the 1940s based on a slightly earlier settlement by a British land company (the Companhia de Terras Norte do Paraná) which proposed to privately develop some 100 such towns around agricultural regions of Brazil which would be connected by rail. Described in its marketing literature as ‘a stroke of magic in the forest’ the settlement was again designed by Jorge de Macedo Vieira, as an architecturally ‘modern’ town with a garden city-inspired winding street layout that rejected the grid favoured by Portuguese colonialism.
The town followed layout principles defined by Raymond Unwin, with large house plots, a limit to house coverage area on site and substantial set-backs from the street. It also included a central boulevard as a spine, palm tree-lined streets and substantial green park space conceived as ‘town lungs’, Maringá featured low density, single family housing and public squares rather than communal, semi-public gardens which did not suit Brazilian social mores. The town as a whole was thought to show City Beautiful ideas in its civic and commercial areas and more picturesque garden city approaches in the residential neighbourhoods.
Goiânia was conceived in the 1933-1936 period as a new capital city for the state of Goias southwest of Brazilia and was design by the architect Attilio Correa Lima (1901–1943). Lima had studied in Paris with Auguste Bruggeman who was himself a garden city advocate. Centred on a classical layout of three converging boulevards, the town plan proposed a network of parks and parkways and tree-lined streets. By 1936 the plan had been partly implemented and the original layout was then revised by engineer Augusto de Godoy (1876–1944) who had replaced Lima as the town’s planner. Godoy was a garden city advocate who had visited French garden cities, and in his writings described the garden city as ‘the most perfect creation of our time’.
Godoy focus his attention on the layout of Goiânia’s residential neighbourhoods and an urban extension to the town. He reinforced the garden city qualities of the central area and instituted a picturesque style of winding lanes in residential areas. Godoy also notably designed in an early example of a ‘Radburn layout’ pioneered in the United States in the early 20th century in which pedestrian and vehicle circulation was separated and the road system was based on superblocks and culs-de-sac. The resulting inward facing housing away from these superblock roads did not reflect Brazilian norms of housing facing the street and was unpopular for this reason and also because it created leftover spaces that came to be used for illegal activities.
Today Goiânia is a large city with in excess of two million inhabitants. Its central ensemble of Art Deco buildings designed by Lima are heritage listed and it still has a very high amount of greenspace which reflects its garden city history. However, its garden city heritage has been overtaken by the much larger amount of development including a high rise centre, vast urban expansion, and existence of informal edge neighbourhoods in the latter part of the twentieth century and into the twenty-first.
Letchworth’s architect Barry Parker was highly active in developing garden settlements in Brazil during and just after the First World War from 1917-19. As Dr Mervyn Miller (2012), notes, “In January 1917 Barry Parker travelled to Brazil to refine the layout (of Jardim América) designing many houses, re-landscaping a major park, and providing advice on the planned extension of São Paulo and other regional cities.”
Francisco Prestes Maia (1896-1965) and Leo Ribeiro de Moraes (1912-1978)
The garden city and suburb story in Brazil is bound up with the work of the civil engineer, Francisco Prestes Maia (1896–1965), who developed a masterplan for the city of Londrina which drew on garden city and garden suburb ideas. The Urban Code produced by Maia was used in the development of Jardim Shangri-La.
The architect and engineer Leo Ribeiro de Moraes meanwhile was well known in Brazil for campaigning in support of the garden city model. Ribeiro de Moraes emphasised the importance of marinating the garden city as a city rather than a suburb in order to reap its full benefits.
We are grateful to Renato Leão Rego for material in the article Rego, R. L. (2014). Brazilian garden cities and suburbs: accommodating urban modernity and foreign ideals. Journal of Planning History, 13(4), 276-295; to Joseli Macedo, for their article, Macedo, J. (2011). Maringá: a British Garden City in the tropics. Cities, 28(4), 347-359; and to Dr Mervyn Miller for his paper “Barry Parker: before and after Jardim America”, 15th IPHS Conference, São Paulo, Brazil, 15-18 July 2012.