The Pampulha hotel is also, unquestionably, a space organized primarily for pleasure. The curves alone suggest organic, bodily forms, but they are filled with spaces for all kinds of physical pleasures: dancing, sleeping, relaxing, and flirting. The furniture is virtually all horizontal. Bar the inevitable Barcelona chairs, the terrace is scattered with chaises lounges and easy chairs. The terrace merges imperceptibly with the beach; one is virtually commanded to lie down. And as Niemeyer draws it, it is a scene that is full of erotic activity. 

Le Corbusier’s perspectives were – where they were populated at all – inhabited by tiny individual figures, alone with nature, nursing (as the philosopher Roger Scruton once put it) ‘their inner solitude’. Niemeyer’s scene is inhabited only by couples, dancing, flirting, drinking, and sunbathing. There is some attention to the last – a well sculpted couple represents a new, modern beauty based on the simple enjoyment of the body. This is an image about sex, not calisthenics. Where for the Brazilians, Modernist building (through, for example, the opening up of indoor and outdoor spaces, the production of spaces in which the body might be exulted) opened up a realm of erotic possibilities, for the Europeans, it was, by contrast, often an architecture designed to keep them in check.

Sadly, the hotel was not built, but most of the rest of the scheme was. The Casino, however, completed in 1942, embodies much of the erotic programme of the hotel. Like the hotel it is mainly a linear building, against which there are curving contrasts. It has something to do with Le Cor busier’s Villa Savoye, not so much in outward form (although both are largely rectangular pavilions on pilotis), but for the use of the architectural promenade. The visitor is taken on a defined route through the building, from the marbled exterior, dotted with busty sculptural nudes by August Zamoiski, through a dazzling double-height entrance hall in chrome and mirrors, up a ramp in marble, rising up and across the entrance space. The visitor finds the main hall of the Casino on the first floor. All through the promenade, views inside and outside mingle. One looks across the lake at the same time as one looks at the building inside, while the mirrors encourage one to look at both oneself and the other players. This is a space that frames an erotics of modern life. It puts bodies on display, and through the use of luxurious, unusual or seductive materials, makes the visitor think in terms of the senses of both touch and sight.
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