Category Archives: Belo Horizonte

Tancredo Neves


The Belo Horizonte airport is a great place to arrive (in Brazil or anywhere). I couldn’t figure out who the architect was, but the curving concrete structure is more open air than an air-tight building. The air, the late afternoon light and the openess reminded me Sandakan airport in Borneo . It’s also full of those little modernist dark wood+concrete details, and you can still see some of the certainly original lowercase Helvetica Medium signs (after the jump). I’ll be coming back in a few weeks. 


And on the 23rd day I went to Inhotim


Inhotim is one of the most sophisticated places in the world to see contemporary art. The large property about 60km from Belo Horizonte, owned by mining millionaire Bernardo Paes, feels – as Marcelo Drummond put it so well – like ”Berlin in the sertão”. There are some amazing artworks from Brazilian and foreign contemporary artist to be seen around the gardens and inside the pavilions. More photos after the jump. Photography is only allowed outside, but some of the art can be seen in the Institute’s website.


A pleasant day with a bitter aftertaste


I spent my first day in Belo Horizonte with graphic designer and professor Marcelo Drummond. Marcelo is one of the founders of the Piracema Laboratory, and long-time friend of Heloísa Crocco (who introduced us by email while I saw stil in Porto Alegre). He picked me up from my hotel and we went straight to the Central Market, in what was a great introduction to the city (and where I ate three different kinds of Pão de Queijo for breakfast). Then we went to Pampulha, to have take a look at the buildings designed in the 1940s by Óscar Niemeyer on the banks of the artificial lake. We marvelled at the what was then a luxurious casino for the rich and famous of Minas Gerais and is now the Pampulha Art Museum, directed by Marcelo’s twin brother, Marconi. After lunch at Xapuri (also in Pampulha, a classic destination for the region’s food), we went back to Belo Horizonte to check out the Arts and Crafts Museum (in what was before the city’s central train station) and the bookshop at the Arts Palace (a 1970 design also by Niemeyer).

Marcelo and I covered a lot of ground during this very full day; from his PhD thesis on vernacular typography to concerns over the future of Piracema and other like-minded projects to using museums as places for material culture (and therefore design) classes. One of the things we spent quite a long time talking about was what he calls the aesthetization of poverty,this sort of fascination artists and designers – from Brazil and abroad – have with the precarious, makeshift  belongings and ways of the poor. This perverse fascination galvanises the desperate resourcefulness of the “have nots” into the creative inventiveness of the “haves”, who are seldom bothered with the actual conditions people live in, or how to improve them. Many times during my trip I’ve heard this is a trait of “brazilian design”, something that always leaves me with an uneasy feeling.