Wladimir Alves de Souza was an architect, restorer, decorator and teacher, with a remarkable participation in the academic world.

Concrete vaulted pergola

Wladimir Alves de Souza (1908 – 1994) graduated as an architect in 1930, from the Escola Nacional de Belas Artes (ENBA) [Fine Arts National School], awarded with a gold medal. One year later, he competed for the Prêmio Caminho à Europa (Way to Europe Awards), ranking first and even winning the illustrious Brazilian modernist architect Affonso Eduardo Reidy.

His best known project is the residence Chácara do Céu – today Chácara do Céu Museum –, ordered by Raymundo Ottoni de Castro Maya, who was an industrialist, patron and collector (his collection is now displayed at the residence designed for him by Wladimir). Raymundo was a friend of Wladimir, who worked with him as a curator. The house, located in the neighborhood of Santa Teresa, Rio de Janeiro, presents liberty regarding its style, which is observed in the contrast of modern lines with a decoration that sometimes approaches ‘déco', seen, for example, in the covering of a wall with stone powder. The work has a strong connection with its surroundings, being crowned by a Burle Marx garden which, in a perfect gradient, fits the original forest, besides the presence of windows overlooking the main postcards of the city. Wladimir was therefore an expert in integrating his work with its environment, what is also a reason for the success of his projects.

With Enéas Silva, a partner with who he would later make other projects, he participated in the contest that would elect the building to host the Ministry of Finance, in Rio de Janeiro, ranking first. Nevertheless, his project was not executed for having a modernist style, and a classic style building was chosen to be built instead.

In 1938, Wladimir was classified as a full professor in ENBA, current FAU-UFRJ (Faculdade de Arquitetura e Urbanismo da Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro) [Faculty of Architecture and Urbanism of the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro], acting in the field of Theory and Philosophy of Architecture and later occupying twice the position of director of the Escola Nacional de Belas Artes (National School of Fine Arts). In 1944, together with students of the Faculdade Nacional de Arquitetura (National School of Architecture), he held a conference in Lisbon on the Brazilian architecture.

As a restorer, he had major holdings in historical buildings in Rio de Janeiro, like the Mayrink Chapel (located in the Tijuca National Park) and the portals of the Tijuca Forest. Outside the city, he served with restoration in the old Solar da Marquesa de Santos, a building from the eighteenth century located in the city of São Paulo, and in Pelourinho, in Salvador. There, he also participated in the restoration project of the former Santa Teresa Convent, today Museu de Arte Sacra da Universidade Federal da Bahia (Museum of Sacred Art of the Federal University of Bahia).

Although many of his projects follow the modernist logic, Wladimir Alves de Souza was not essentially modernist, opposing himself to the modern trend in the practice of his restoration projects and within the classroom as a teacher. However, he was a versatile architect and used to design his work according to the customers’ wishes, which therefore allows observing a wide variety in his works.

Wladimir became known among the upper stratum of society, by whom he was often employed to carry out residential projects. That was the main reason to have not only one, but some of them situated in Santa Teresa, a prestigious neighborhood by the carioca elite from the time due not only to its central location in the city, surrounded by services and cultural and leisure sites, but also to the lush landscapes that environ it. Because of their private feature, such residences designed by him ended up being less known.

Souza believes that architecture is "intended to define, out of any improvisation, an always reliable and timely expression of the social environment from a given time, as part of its topographical, climatic and social characters." Beside, that "contemporary architects are staunch defenders of tradition in art, seeking only to update it in a harmonious and useful balance between past and present, according to the environment’s requirements and the constraint of an always renovator progress." Among his publications are the books Aspectos da Arte Brasileira (“Aspects of Brazilian Art”) and O Espaço Barroco (“The Baroque Space”). 

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