Brazilian House Museum, São Paulo, Brazil

The Museu da Casa Brasileira (MCB), an institution of the Secretariat of Culture and Creative Economy of the State of São Paulo, is dedicated to the issues of the Brazilian home through architecture and design. Over more than four decades of existence, it has become a national and international reference in these areas for promoting programs such as the Design MCB Award, a competition created in 1986 with the objective of encouraging Brazilian production in the segment, and the Casas do Brasil project, rescue and preservation of memory about the diversity of Brazilian living.

First museum in Brazil dedicated to architecture and design, MCB (Brazilian House Museum) presents temporary exhibitions and holds a collection of Brazilian furniture from the 17th century to the present time. Among the museum´s main features are MCB Design Award, an annual competition held since 1986, and a documentation project mapping typical types of housing in Brazil named “Brazilian Houses”, a work in progress on its fifth edition with annual exhibitions and publications. MCB collection gathers furniture and objects representative of the Brazilian house, trespassing over three centuries of history. MCB´s calendar of cultural events includes free live music concerts on Sundays and free guided evening visits every fortnight. The museum also holds an agenda based in workshops, roundtables, books and magazines launches on a wide range of themes related to Architecture and Design such as City Planning, Sustainability, Conservation, Heritage Buildings and Creative Economy, which forms the core of its activities for Education and Research, enabling national and international exchanges.

The Museu da Casa Brasileira (MCB) is an institution of the Secretary of Culture of the State of São Paulo, which is dedicated to issues of material culture in the Brazilian house in terms of architecture and design. Located in A venida Brigadeiro Faria Lima, in São Paulo, in the old manor that belonged to the former mayor of São Paulo, Fábio da Silva Prado and his wife, Renata Crespi Prado, it is the only Brazilian museum specialized in design and architecture, having become a national and international reference in these themes.

Among its numerous initiatives, the Design MCB Award, held since 1986 with the aim of encouraging Brazilian production in the segment, and the Casas do Brasil project, to rescue and preserve memory about the diversity of Brazilian living, are highlighted.

The Museum dedicates its space to two long-term exhibitions: MCB Collection, with a section of the institution’s collection consisting of furniture and objects representative of the Brazilian house from the 17th century to the present day , and A Casa and the City – Crespi Prado Collection, which addresses the residential use of the property that today houses the museum through the daily life and trajectory of its original residents: the couple Renata Crespi and Fábio Prado, protagonist of historical, cultural and urban transformations in the city from Sao Paulo. The collection with objects and furniture is on the top floor of the museum. The photos help the visitor to see the development of the region where the museum is located.

The MCB’s program includes temporary exhibitions and an agenda based on debates, lectures and publications that contextualize the museum’s vocation for architecture and design, contributing to the formation of critical thinking on various topics such as urbanism, housing, creative economy, mobility urban and sustainability. The institution invests in educational extension activities, with attention to special audiences and in the development of techniques and support material, both for guided visits and for spontaneous audiences. Also on the cultural agenda is the Music at MCB project, which brings free musical performances on Sunday mornings, between March and December. All of these actions represent a notable growth in the museum’s agenda and the gradual evolution of the number of audiences received,

In addition, the MCB maintains the Ernani Bruno Archive, a file of quotes about equipment, uses and domestic customs of Brazilian society throughout its history that brings, in digital version, 28 thousand files containing travelers’ reports, fictional reading, inventories family and wills that reveal cultural habits of the Brazilian home. Produced in the 1970s by a group of researchers from the University of São Paulo, the work is organized into 24 themes including food, construction, domestic customs, furniture and others, and is part of the museum’s archival collection. The file is the only one of its kind in the country.

The activities at the museum take place through public resources from the Secretariat of Culture and also through partnerships with institutions and cultural producers.

The MCB was created in 1970, as the Museum of Brazilian Artistic and Historical Furniture, a member of the State Government museum network, linked to the Secretariat of Culture. In 1972, it gained its definitive headquarters, a neoclassical manor built between 1942 and 1945, originally to house the former mayor of São Paulo (1934-1938) Fábio da Silva Prado and his wife Renata Crespi Prado. The architectural project, designed by Wladimir Alves de Souza, refers to the lines of the Imperial Palace in Petrópolis (RJ). Its construction is part of the urban expansion of the first half of the 20th century in São Paulo, when the city’s elite left the center to live on the outskirts of the Pinheiros River.

The couple lived in the residence for 18 years and turned it into the center of large official receptions. After the death of Fábio Prado, who left no heirs, Renata Crespi moved out of the house, and, in 1968, donated the property to the Padre Anchieta Foundation. In turn, the Foundation lent the building as a loan to the Secretary of Culture of the State of São Paulo.

During the administration of Governor Abreu Sodré, his secretary of Finance, Luís Arrobas Martins, involved in the project to acquire works of art for the Bandeirantes and Boa Vista palaces and in the process of creating a state network of museums and cultural facilities, idealized a institution dedicated to the conservation, restoration, research and exhibition of furniture, implements and objects of art and home decoration that were considered of historical or artistic value for the country. Thus, in March 1970, the so-called “Museum of Brazilian Artistic and Historical Furniture” was inaugurated. Historian Ernani Silva Bruno was invited to direct the new museum.

In the beginning, the museum was installed in a mansion in the Nothmann mall, in the Campos Elísios neighborhood. Ernani Silva Bruno chaired the Museum’s Directing Council, also composed of intellectuals such as Paulo Duarte and Sérgio Buarque de Hollanda. A commission was created to evaluate the pieces to be purchased, based on their sociological, historical and artistic value. The incipient institution’s objective was to acquire pieces of exceptional quality, representative of Brazilian culture. Thus, the museum management began to distribute news in the press, so that proposals for the sale and donation of objects would appear.

In November 1970, the Padre Anchieta Foundation granted the use of Solar Fábio Prado by lending to the state government, which intended to install the newly founded museum there. On that occasion, the institution’s name was changed to “Museu da Cultura Paulista” and its field of action was expanded: the objective was to make the museum a study center, destined to research the complex range of information about the material evolution of the culture of São Paulo. São Paulo and Brazil. The new denomination did not reach consensus, causing a long debate among the councilors. In 1971, after almost a year of debates, the proposal by Sérgio Buarque de Hollanda and Ernani da Silva Bruno to name the space as “Museu da Casa Brasileira” was approved.

The transfer of the museum to Solar Fábio Prado took another year. It was only in 1972 that the museum started to occupy its current facilities. In 1976, a comprehensive reform would be completed for the best use of the museum. In parallel with the adaptation of the new headquarters, the Directing Council sought, especially during the first five years of the institution’s life, a significant expansion of the collection, characterizing the current sociological and historical profile of the collection. The large quantity of pieces acquired during the administration of Ernani Bruno allowed the expansion of the didactic performance of the museum, which started to present exhibitions permanent and thematic discussions about the evolution of Brazilian furniture.

Ernani Bruno was also very committed to consolidating the museum as a research center, specializing in the evolution of the equipment of the Brazilian house and its uses and customs. In this sense, the transfer to the museum of an archive developed during the 1970s by professor Carlos Alberto Cerqueira Lemos and students from the Faculty of Architecture and Urbanism at USP was essential. This archive, which currently bears the name of the first director of the museum, is composed of more than 28 thousand files with quotes and information on architecture, furniture and domestic equipment, ways of building, utensils as well as behavior in the domestic sphere of the 16th the XIX, and reveals the entire trajectory of material culture in Brazil, in addition to the peculiarities, transformations and assimilations suffered by Brazilian society throughout its first four centuries of history. These records were updated by historian Maria de Lourdes Juliao and published on CD-ROM and in a collection of five volumes.

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The expansion of the institution’s museological profile has, over the years, made it possible for new proposals and approaches to emerge, in which architecture and design have gained considerable space, through temporary exhibitions, conferences, awards and competitions. In 1986, the Design Award of the Museu da Casa Brasileira was created, which quickly established itself as one of the most prestigious awards in the area of product design in the country, and an important reference for professionals and students in the area. Since 1993, the museum has also hosted the Young Architects Award, promoted by the Institute of Architects of Brazil (IAB).

In the 90s, the manor house underwent a new renovation and the museum’s collection was organized in a new spatial arrangement, following chronological criteria. At the same time, the MCB received on loan the part of the rich collection of the Crespi-Prado Foundation. The works, which belonged to the private collection of the first owners of the manor, Fábio da Silva Prado and Renata Crespi Prado, had been removed from the residence when Renata donated the property to the Padre Anchieta Foundation. Currently, the Crespi Prado-collection can be seen on permanent display on the second floor and hallbuilding entrance. Among the pieces are silverware, tapestry, silverware, paintings and sculptures. Among all of them, there is a bust of Renata Crespi Prado made by Victor Brecheret (1894-1955) in addition to the painting Forests and Deer by Candido Portinari (1903-1962), the oils of Di Cavalcanti and Almeida Junior (Favela and Negrinha respectively). In addition to permanent and temporary exhibitions, the Museu da Casa Brasileira has a fixed cultural agenda, promoting regular musical performances. It also has its own publisher, specializing in publications on design, furniture, material culture, customs and uses of Brazilian society.

There are two types of collections at the Museu da Casa Brasileira, the museum collection and the archival collection.

Archival Collection
The Archival Collection consists of about 28 thousand files that form travelers’ accounts, family inventories, fictional literature and a series of wills that manifest the cultural habits of the Brazilian house.

Museological Collection
The Museological Collection consists of emblematic objects and furniture from the Brazilian house from the 17th to the 21st century. A collection incorporated by pieces that belong to the couple of real residents (Fábio Prado and Renata Crespi) of the property, which today includes the Museu da Casa Brasileira.

The works “MCB Collection” and “A Casa e a Cidade”, from the Crespi Prado collection, which show the trajectory of the first residents, are also exhibited in the long-term exhibitions.

The Solar Fábio Prado
The manor was built during the 1940s, as the residence of the former mayor of São Paulo, Fábio da Silva Prado, and his wife, Renata Crespi da Silva Prado. The project is by Pará architect Wladimir Alves de Souza – graduated from the National School of Fine Arts – Enba (Rio de Janeiro) friend of the couple. At the request of Renata Crespi, the architect reproduced the lines of the Imperial Palace in Petrópolis, a project of the disciples of Grandjean de Montigny. Wladimir was also inspired by Palladio’s Italian villas, as a way of imbuing the residence with a symbolic character of wealth and power.

The design of the building went in the opposite direction to the architectural panorama of the city at the time, which was characterized by buildings of bold plants – which did not prevent the interior of the residence from adopting the standards of modernity and functionality then. The building consists of a central block with two floors and two side wings. In its construction they were used masonry of bricks plastered, floor sandstone from Minas Gerais, marble Portuguese and tiles “channel”. In the decoration of the manor, noble and imported materials were used, from the floor covering in marble and doors in noble wood to the mosaicsItalians decorating the bathrooms. The work was completed in 1945.

The couple lived in the residence for more than fifteen years. During this period, the manor became a place for official receptions, where important authorities from the national and international political scene stayed, such as Prince Ali Khan, Queen Elizabeth II of England and Prince Phillip, among others. It was also frequented by personalities from the Brazilian artistic and intellectual milieu, hosting the annual “Fábio Prado Award for encouraging Human Sciences, Literature, Theater and Cinema” – which conferred honors on names such as Florestan Fernandes and José Lins do Rego. With the death of Fábio Prado in 1963-who left no heir, Renata Crespi left the manor. In March 1968, Renata transferred the ownership of Solar Fábio Prado to Fundação Padre Anchieta, in accordance with the desire expressed in life by her husband. In 1972, the Padre Anchieta Foundation ceded the use of the solar as a loan to the Museu da Casa Brasileira.

Initially, Solar Fábio Prado was located at one end of an extensive garden with an area of approximately 15,000 square meters. However, a series of expropriations and urban changes in the surroundings reduced the green area to less than half of its original size. Even so, the current garden of approximately 6,000 square meters draws with exotic plants and trees and species native to the Atlantic Forest and also originating in Japan, Vietnam and China, drawing attention amid the dense mass of concrete in the region where is the manor. It houses approximately 200 species of Brazilian trees and several species of birds.

Educational activities
Museum visitors are encouraged to research the information provided, starting with their own experiences and, thus, discovering new sensations. There are workshops for families and the general public. It also develops special activities for people with disabilities, and access is easy. The works were positioned at an appropriate height just to get to know it, and there are even access routes to the rooms. The informative material is also in Braille and also has tactile models.

MCB Design Award
The Design MCB Award, created by Roberto Duailibi at the time director of the museum, has been held since 1986, being the most traditional award in the design segment in Brazil. There are two stages: in the first stage the Poster Contest and then the products and written works are awarded. Registration is open between February and March for the Poster Contest. Participants must create a piece to publicize the Award. The winning poster is printed and distributed by the museum to announce the inscriptions for the award itself. There are 7 product categories in the product and prototype modality: furniture, utensils, lighting, electronics, transport and construction equipment and textiles. The specimen or prototype of the project is only presented if the work is selected for the second phase. In the category of written works, there are two modalities: published and unpublished works. The objective of this award, above all, is to draw the attention of the industrial sector to the capacity of Brazilian designers.

The Casa Brasileira Museum is managed by the Social Organization of Culture The Casa Museu de Artes e Artefatos Brasileiros, CNPJ. 03.031.145 / 0002-29, through a contract signed with the Secretary of Culture of the State of São Paulo.

Qualified as a social culture organization (OS) by the São Paulo State Secretariat of Culture, The Casa Museu de Artes e Artefatos Brasileiros is the OS manager of the Museu da Casa Brasileira. Created in 1997, A Casa is interested in the object of artisanal, semi-artisanal or industrial genesis, seen as a cultural expression. It favors Brazilian production, or the focus on and about Brazil. As a mediator of cultural processes, A Casa encourages research and the exchange of information between different institutions through projects that generate research, exhibitions, books, and collection of collections. Within this proposal, it maintains, in addition to the managed equipment, its own headquarters and operation, located at Av. Pedroso de Morais, 1234, in the Pinheiros District, in São Paulo.