Page C1.1 . 29 September 2004                     
ArchitectureWeek - Culture Department
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The Hyperbolic Brick of Eladio Dieste

by Stanford Anderson

Uruguayan engineer Eladio Dieste would not have realized his brilliant, innovative works had he relied on the conventions of ordinary practice. Instead, he began from first principles. In the hands of this extraordinary engineer, adherence to first principles did not inhibit but rather enhanced the search for sound forms appropriate to the demands put upon them.

Dieste embraced a technique — reinforced masonry — that in his day was little known and less exploited. Through that technique he invented appropriate structural types that he employed with daring. He was a builder.

Innovations in construction were necessary and integral to his engineering insights. He built prodigiously, mostly humble structures for storing and making. Yet even these humble works were raised to higher levels; the sheer daring of great spans was part of this, but only part.

In all but the most elemental of these structures other qualities emerge: the proportions of the whole; the economy and elegance of the materials; the detail of the parts; and above all, the knowing use of light as it plays on and especially as it is admitted into these buildings. These are the qualities of a building created by a fine architect. Given only a few (all too rare) special opportunities, Dieste was nonetheless undeniably an architect.

Church of Christ the Worker

It is remarkable but true that the Church of Christ the Worker (1958-60), in the small village of Atlántida, is Eladio Dieste's first architectural work, evolving from an initial contract for a simple vault in 1952. It is located in a formless village populated by agricultural and manual laborers.   >>>

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This article is excerpted from Eladio Dieste: Innovation in Structural Art edited by Stanford Anderson, with permission of the publisher, Princeton Architectural Press.

 

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The dynamic form of the Church of Christ the Worker at Atlántida, Uruguay, designed by engineer Eladio Dieste.
Photo: Yoshihiro Asada/a+u, Tokyo

ArchWeek Image

Axial view of the interior, from the entrance.
Photo: Vicente del Amo, Granada, Spain

 

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