Performing São Paulo Flávio de Carvalho and the Experimental City, 1928–1931

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Adrian Anagnost


In the 1920s and early 1930s, Brazil’s urbanists and intellectuals recognized fundamental tensions between world-making by modernist artists and architects and interventions in urban space by undisciplined urban crowds.1 In the burgeoning megalopolis of São Paulo, simultaneously center and periphery for a Brazil increasingly embedded within international economic and cultural circuits, civil engineer Flávio de Carvalho created fantastical architectural designs and performative disruptions of city life. Yet, rather than understanding his works as exemplifying avant-garde radicality, this essay argues that Carvalho’s designs and interventions expressed anxiety about the declining power of older Brazilian elites and the rise of quasi-populist
demagoguery with Brazil’s Revolution of 1930. In rapidly changing São Paulo, Carvalho remained poised between faith in the modernization of Brazil’s cities governed by rational urban planning and a desire to experience urbanity as an exhilarating immersion in disorderly crowds. 

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Author Biography

Adrian Anagnost, Tulane University

Adrian Anagnost is Jessie Poesch Assistant Professor in the Newcomb Art Department at Tulane University and can be reached at