Diana Huntress, replica of the work of French sculptor Jean-Antoine Houdon (1742–1828) made by students of the Lyceum of Arts and Crafts in São Paulo. Restored after being depredated in Vale do Anhangabaú, it is now part of the gardens of the new Lyceum. Photo: Hélio Campos Mello

*By Angélica de Moraes, contributor


When did the fire happen of the Cultural Center of the Liceu de Artes e Ofícios, in 2014, the sadness of those who value the country's historical and artistic heritage was enormous. The history of the city of São Paulo was seriously affected. Although much of the building and the collection it housed were destroyed by fire, the memory of the century-old institution, founded in 1873, could be researched in various sources and private collections. It was reborn in details, in period photos, decorative objects and furniture of refined design and execution. Exciting details that guarantee a pleasant visit to the past of a project dedicated to quality technical education, which reaches the present with updated courses for the future: the challenges of design with computer graphics and the internet of things.

The building, on the outskirts of Parque da Luz, was revitalized by a restoration and reconstruction project led by architect Ricardo Julião. It gained large spaces illuminated by natural light and a ceiling height of 11 meters, suitable for current demands. All punctuated by references to the time adhered to details such as the use of the original bricks in the columns. Part of the metal structure that burned was recovered and painted. It no longer supports the weight of the construction: it anchors the constructive memory of the ensemble, with great visual lightness.

The reopening of the Liceu exhibition space takes place with a curatorship by Denise Mattar articulated in three moments Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow and two simultaneous and complementary exhibitions, on display since the end of August. One, curated by designer Fernanda Sarmento, called “Design Brasil Século XXI”, is on display for four months and is a refined exploration of furniture projects that reduce the environmental impact of its production. The cast puts established names like the Campana brothers side by side and certain bets on young talents.

The other exhibition, called “History and Memory”, resulted from research that occupied Denise and her team for more than two years and will be on display until August 2019. linked to coffee growing, yielded a timeline that sews the entire course of the show. The 1873 years of the Liceu, with its characters and works, are materialized in photographs and photographic enlargements interspersed with objects (furniture, lamps, drawings and work instruments).

The joinery and next door, the new salons. Photo: Patricia Rousseaux

There are very curious photos, such as the lunch offered by the Liceu to the team of artisans who made the casting of the equestrian statue of Duque de Caxias, work of the modernist sculptor Victor Brecheret (1894-1955) installed in the Princesa Isabel square. The lunch spot: the inside of the horse's belly, still without the upper half.

The Liceu appears in the eyes of visitors as a living history and an important testimony of an exemplary project for the qualification of manpower to meet the demand for high-quality carpentry and locksmithing at the time when the city was becoming more sophisticated. The most important period of these beginnings, states Denise, “it was between 1895 and 1928, when the architect Ramos de Azevedo guided the finishing works of his buildings in the Liceu”.

Original molds made at the Lyceum sawmill

It was in the Liceu's workshops that the furniture and decorative elements of the environments that still constitute the old center of the city were made. It was there that the red velvet armchairs carved in wood from the Municipal Theater were made, as well as the design and casting of the sinuous iron railings of the former headquarters of Banco do Brasil and other buildings in the oldest region of the metropolis.

The plaster collection with life-size replicas of famous sculptures from the History of Art, which served as models for drawing classes, were badly hit by the fire. Livio de Vivo, president of the Liceu's Board, recalls that, of the 28 pieces in the collection, only eight remain. Four of them are in the exhibition, with emphasis on a copy of Michelangelo's Pietá, restored by Júlio Moraes, a name of excellence in the sector in the country.

The renowned school linked to the Lyceum, which has won many international awards (Saint Louis, USA; Turin, Italy, etc…), offers regular paid secondary education and free technical courses on a part-time basis for underprivileged students. In the second half of 2018, it starts to have theory and practice courses for advanced technological solutions in industrial automation and internet of things. “Liceu Tech updates and develops the mission of excellence initiated by the Liceu”, observes Patrícia Macedo, director of the school. Students do an internship in partner companies, gateway to the job market. The Brazil that worked is teaching Brazil that it needs to work.

White Balance Pouf by Nido Campolongo at the design exhibition

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