The Point of Housing

We avoided the crowds of Carnaval this year and instead went to stay in the mountains at my father-in-law’s weekend house. The house is in an area called Vale Florido near Itaipava. The area is very scenic with a number of large, private houses.

Unfortunately for us, it rained most of the time. Which meant, as my father-in-law is straight off the boat from Germany (ok, he came to do an architecture internship, and he probably had pretty good seats, but it sounds more authentic), the indoor activities mostly included eating heavy German foods and drinking wine.

However, on one morning when the weather was reasonably clear, we dragged our bloated bodies onto the road and went for a walk along the river. After a short time, we came upon a strange architectural site. A house constructed of what looked like two large sheets of metal that joined at the top and extended to the ground. The space was then contained by two brick walls, plus windows and a door. Essentially, a big metal triangle house. “Odd,” we thought, and continued walking.

Then we happened upon another one. And another. And another. Each with a different façade. Some had elaborate extensions. Some had immaculate landscaping with outdoor swimming pools. Then was a small condominium that consisted of eight of these constructions.

One aluminum tee pee is strange, but a whole production line of them? I counted about twenty along our stroll, and we certainly hadn’t covered the length of the river.

Luckily, my father-in-law is an architect, so he could unravel the mystery for us.

Apparently, there was a guy named Vitor Santa’Anna that bought a large piece of land, now called Vale Florido, from the government. (I believe he might have had a partner named Heloise Muller, the name of the road where these contraptions exist.) Previously, the land was difficult to get to because there was no proper road established. But then a road was made by the state and the space was more attractive.  Vitor built a bunch of big houses on his land for his family and thought that he’d attract more people to sell the land to and build big houses. But it didn’t happen that way. And things got kind of lonely. Plus, the more people that lived in Vale Florido, the more valuable his land would be.

So instead, he divided the land along the river, the most attractive for small plots because it was along the water and had a beautiful view of the mountains. (I guess it’s not worth it to live in a metal shack unless you’ve got something to look at.)  He then placed one of these small, metal, pinnacle shaped houses on each. Aluminum was the ideal material because it is light and will easily adjust to the terrain.

Vitor’s target market shifted from established wealth to young couples, with not so much money, looking to escape the Rio de Janeiro summer heat on the weekends.  Seemingly, as the families (and probably the wealth) of these couples grew, some built various rooms around the original structure.

There are some plots along the way that do not contain this interesting architecture, so one assumes that some families might have (done the obvious and) just knocked them down and build regular houses.

Just for the record, I’ve been able to confirm none of this on the internet. But from an affordable housing standpoint, Vitor certainly had a pointed sense for development.

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2 Responses to The Point of Housing

  1. Ray Adkins says:

    Dear BornagainBrazilian,

    The area you visited was the first region in Brazil to be colonized by European immigrants.
    The first group of immigrants came from Switzerland, hence the peculiar architecture of the homes you saw in the “Vale Florido”, they were probably used to tons of snow on top of their homes, so they built the slant roofs like you saw.
    New England actually has a certain construction code for slant roofs, the bigger the angle the more weight of snow it will be able to support, some people don’t follow the code and see their roofs caving in year after year.
    I am sure there isn’t that much snow in the valleys around the Vale Florido, but perhaps the Swiss immigrants felt comfortable with the style that reminded them of their home land.
    Very interesting story, thanks for sharing 🙂


    • Yes, it was also very interesting to see the German influence on the architecture in the city of Petrópolis. My father-in-law explained that the king brought in Germans to build and design much of the city, and of course they built there homes. And of course, there are Portuguese influences as well.

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