João Filgueiras Lima’s Bahía exhibition center – A brutalist classic

João Filgueiras Lima (Lelé) - Centro de Exposições do Centro Admnistrativo da Bahia, 1974, Salvador, Brazil
João Filgueiras Lima (Lelé) – Centro de Exposições do Centro Admnistrativo da Bahia, 1974, Salvador, Brazil, photo: CC BY-SA 2.0 by gaf.arq

Introduction

As far as Brutalist architecture goes, the Centro de Exposições da Bahía Building, more commonly known as the Exhibition Center of the Administrative Center of Bahía, is a perfect example.

Designed in 1974 by Brazilian architect João Filgueiras Lima, more frequently known as Lelé, this amphitheater was designed to accommodate at least 50 individuals.

João Filgueiras Lima (Lelé) - Centro de Exposições do Centro Admnistrativo da Bahia, 1974, Salvador, Brazil
João Filgueiras Lima (Lelé) – Centro de Exposições do Centro Admnistrativo da Bahia, 1974, Salvador, Brazil, photo: CC BY-SA 2.0 by gaf.arq

Brutalism

Brutalist architecture emerged during the 1950s in the UK when many of the buildings had to undergo reconstruction as a result of the years of war.

Because there weren’t too many resources to spare in the post-war era, many of the brutalist architecture constructions were only created to showcase the bare construction materials and structural components rather than the decorative components of design.

That explains why many builds created using Brutalist architecture, including João Filgueiras Lima’s Exhibition Center of the Administrative Center of Bahia, all share similar characteristics.

João Filgueiras Lima (Lelé) - Centro de Exposições do Centro Admnistrativo da Bahia, 1974, Salvador, Brazil
João Filgueiras Lima (Lelé) – Centro de Exposições do Centro Admnistrativo da Bahia, 1974, Salvador, Brazil, photo: CC BY-SA 2.0 by gaf.arq

Brutalist architecture was extremely common in the 1950s but was gradually phased out by early 20th century modernist designs. As such, there aren’t many Brutalist architecture buildings that are still standing today.

Indeed, though the Exhibition Center is an interesting example of Brutalist architecture still standing today, the building stands in ruins and has been awaiting renovation for decades to no avail.

João Filgueiras Lima (Lelé) - Centro de Exposições do Centro Admnistrativo da Bahia, 1974, Salvador, Brazil
João Filgueiras Lima (Lelé) – Centro de Exposições do Centro Admnistrativo da Bahia, 1974, Salvador, Brazil, photo: CC BY-SA 2.0 by gaf.arq

Construction

Erected entirely from concrete, the building is elevated two meters above the ground. At the center of the building are towers located on the northern and southern sides of the structure.

The two towers bear the weight of the entire, thanks to four thin masts that are attached to the structure on each side. The towers are four meters in diameter at the bottom.

João Filgueiras Lima (Lelé) - Centro de Exposições do Centro Admnistrativo da Bahia, 1974, Salvador, Brazil
João Filgueiras Lima (Lelé) – Centro de Exposições do Centro Admnistrativo da Bahia, 1974, Salvador, Brazil, photo: CC BY-SA 2.0 by gaf.arq

One of the towers has an elevator within it, while the other contains stairs that lead to the top of the towers. On close inspection, it is evident that the building was designed to look like a bridge, although one may also say that the stricture resembles a pyramid of some sort.

The entire construction is 171 feet long and 30 feet wide. In addition to the towers, the structure also has an underground floor, which hosts the technical and storage rooms.

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The west side of the structure is slightly more inverted and contains the room in which projections are shown. On the other side, windows provide ample sunlight that lights up the expansive exhibition hall.

Although this is certainly a very unique design of Brutalist architecture still existing today, the building has been cordoned off and is no longer in use.

João Filgueiras Lima (Lelé) - Centro de Exposições do Centro Admnistrativo da Bahia, 1974, Salvador, Brazil
João Filgueiras Lima (Lelé) – Centro de Exposições do Centro Admnistrativo da Bahia, 1974, Salvador, Brazil, photo: CC BY-SA 2.0 by gaf.arq

Location

390, 1ª Avenida Centro Administrativo da Bahia, 302 – Centro Administrativo da Bahia, Salvador – BA, 41745-001, Brazil

João Filgueiras Lima (Lelé) - Centro de Exposições do Centro Admnistrativo da Bahia, 1974, Salvador, Brazil
João Filgueiras Lima (Lelé) – Centro de Exposições do Centro Admnistrativo da Bahia, 1974, Salvador, Brazil, photo: Fotos GOVBA, CC BY 2.0

João Filgueiras Lima

Brazilian architect João Filgueiras Lima was one of the greatest Latin American architects of his time. His designs were truly ahead of their time and his extensive repertoire still inspires many upcoming architects today.

Born and raised in Rio de Janeiro, he moved to Brasilia after graduating. Strongly influenced by well-known architects Nauro Esteves and Oscar Niemeyer, he ended up working with the latter to help him build Brasilia, a city planned from scratch and built in 41 months.

Inspired by the need for rationalization during constructing Brasilia, Lelé found great interest in the use of reinforced concrete. He ended up visiting the Soviet Union, Czechoslovakia and Poland in the mid-1960s to better understand the technologies of prefabricated buildings.

In addition to the Exhibition Center of Bahia, he is also known for several other designs, including the Twin Houses in Brasília, the Regional Hospital of Taguatinga, the Sarah Hospital in Lago Norte, and the Darcy Ribeiro Memorial in Beijódromo.

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