Shaping cities, building a nation: Alfred Agache and the dream of modern urbanism in Brazil (1920–1950)

Fernando Diniz Moreira, University of Pennsylvania


This dissertation studies the influence of the urbanism of Donat-Alfred Agache and of the Societé Française des Urbanistes (SFU) in Brazil. Although a product of European and North American modernization, ideas of urbanism had a large impact on places where modernization came late and was not always fully realized. European theories that were developed in response to modernization began arriving in Brazil at the same time (or even before) the country's actual political and social modernization. I examine how applicable these ideas were for Brazil and I argue that Brazilians formulated solutions without having clearly identified the problems. In other worlds, did Brazil really need urbanism? Were these new ideas out of place? It can be said the Brazilian modernization is incomplete. Local elites attempted to modernize the country without encouraging the transformation of its social structure. Therefore, symbols of modernization—such as factories, networks of transportation and communication, and skyscrapers—were introduced without a corresponding social structure that modern cities typically support. My argument is that urbanism in Brazil acquired a symbolic nature. The project of urbanism was reduced to fragmentary images that suggested modernity and created spaces for a modern society that did not exist yet. The primary sources for the study were urban plans, articles on urbanism, official reports, legislation and building codes, and minutes from meetings of engineering and architectural societies and commissions of city planning. The dissertation is organized into six chapters. The first and second chapters provide an overview of Brazilian cities and urbanism and of Alfred Agache and French urbanism. The third discusses Agache's plan for Rio de Janeiro. The following chapters focus on the debates over urbanism and the remodeling of the center of Rio de Janeiro, Recife and Porto Alegre, during the Estado Novo (1937–1945), which were inspired by Agache's ideas and urban types.

Subject Area

Architecture|Urban planning|Area planning & development

Recommended Citation

Moreira, Fernando Diniz, "Shaping cities, building a nation: Alfred Agache and the dream of modern urbanism in Brazil (1920–1950)" (2004). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI3138056.