The tradition of producing great architecture cannot be taken for granted. The “non amicable” forces that shape the built environment may interrupt such a tradition of quality architecture without warning. This is the case of Brazil where the lack of quality of contemporary architecture makes one wonder what happened to their impressive modern architectural heritage. This is clearly not only the case of Brazil, but here there was such a tradition that one would have expected it to extend a little bit into the contemporary construction of cities.
SPBR’s project for the Museu de Arte Moderna (MAM) operates in the cultural battle between banality and meaning. The project raises the question of how to design within a modern Brazilian landmark such as Niemeyer’s Ibirapuera Park in São Paulo. There are two typical paths: one is to blend the project with its context, the other to operate via contrast—although the latter is actually a euphemism to avoid responsibility. SPBR take an alternative path: instead of proposing an object (a newn landmark) the project becomes the background. By making a building that is so big that it can never be seen as a whole, the project is paradoxically respectful of the place. In other words, the museum is no longer a building but an element of public space operating at the city scale, just as infrastructure does. Besides the brilliant and unexpected solution for how to establish a dialogue with other buildings and a valuable park, the project gives a clue to understanding infrastructure not only as a solution to a technical requirement, but as an element capable of improving the quality of public space. This is very rare, and precisely because of this it constitutes a long-awaited approach for architecture on a megalopolitan scale.