The Executive Committee of UIA 2020 RIO pays tribute to the memory of Demetre Basile Anastassakis, one of the most important names of the contemporary history of architecture in Brazil.
Born in Athens, Greece, Demetre moved to Brazil when he was eight years old. He had received his degree in architecture (1973) and his master’s degree in Urban and Regional Planning by the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ). He was the president of the Institute of Architects of Brazil (IAB) from 2004 to 2006, year in which he had received the Architect of the Year award by de National Federation of Architects and Urbanists (FNA).
Demetre worked in projects such as the Housing Complex Jardim São Francisco, in São Paulo, and the Housing Complex Bento Ribeiro Dantas, at the favela of the Maré, Rio de Janeiro.
Pedro da Luz Moreira, Vice-President of UIA 2020 RIO and president of IAB-RJ, highlighted the social aspect of Demetre’s work:
- Demestre has always worried about the fact that Brazilian cities are like machines of exclusion. The poorer groups of the society are banished from the most urbanized areas and sent to the peripheries that are structurally precarious. He was very passionate about this subject and important projects of his represent the fight for more inclusion.
He also believes that UIA 2020 RIO is the perfect opportunity to feel inspired by Demetre’s purposes to talk about fairer and more dynamic cities:
- Considering the World Congress of Architects and the World Capital of Architecture, it is an important moment to think through Demetre’s work. It may incite some engagement to solve the problem of exclusion on Brazilian cities.
Pedro da Luz analyses four of the most important works in Demetre’s career:
“It was in the beggining of the 90’s, when Luiza Erundina was the mayor of São Paulo. Demetre won the contest to develop this project on the east part of town, at the periphery. He used a new technology of optimization for a structural brick. The interesting part was that it was a project executed by means of collective effort. He did not worked on it in his office and told somebody to execute it. It was by means of participations, inhabitants of those communities had to approve everything. This method results in an important process of popular awareness about the right to the city and to housing.”
“The proposal was to build a few blocks to house people who used to live on the stilt houses of the favela Roquete Pinto. A different Demetre as an architect started to show up, one that was more worried about the form in general. You can notice some interesting symmetry aspects, a more articulated composition. Unlike Jardim São Francisco, in São Paulo, this construction was not made by collective effort, but by building contractors. However, it followed the same logic of valuing the point of view of the dwellers because it increases community self-esteem and the feeling that they belong to their houses.”
“Demetre was extremely moved to be a part of the intervention, because big names of Brazilian architecture have already worked there, such as the Roberto brothers, Lucio Costa and Lelé. Demetre had some kind of expertise about the urbanization of favelas, but this was his most mature project. It was necessary to shape the space as a whole, to conform the open space as well. It was not only about the plan for the house and the ceiling. It was also about the drawing of the street, of the square.”
“This project has reinforced an old belief of the Institute of Architects of Brazil, that the theme of housing should not follow a simple reasoning, focused on “just” guarantying housing and that’s it. We also have to guarantee the access to the city, to urbanity. Demetre understood that housing is not only about building the new, but also about re-occupying old places: historic buildings that were once houses and commercial areas, and were abandoned because of city growth. He suggested a housing project for old constructions at Salvador’s historic city centre.”
The architect Sérgio Magalhães, president of UIA 2020 RIO’s Committee, talks about a fifth work:
“In the 1990s, after an order of Rio’s City Hall, Demetre and his team made an interesting survey about the opportunities for housing implementation in empty or idle lands of the Port Zone. Between those lands, there was one at the top of the hill in Saúde, a neighbourhood in downtown Rio. The Municipal Housing Office ordered, then, the team to build a project that would be an example for their program New Alternatives. Demetre was excited, developed the project, which was built, and he decided to live in one of the Complex’s apartments; there are around 150 of them.
It is surely a magnificent example of the insertion of a building in an area that was already structured. The scale and proportions are absolutely compatible with what already existed before, adding to that the creation of a very qualified common space. It is an important work for the group of good contemporary housing projects of Rio.”
Demetre passed away in Rio de Janeiro last Saturday, July 27. He was 71 years old.
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