Born in the Northern city of Artigas, Uruguay, South America, Eladio Dieste belonged to a well-educated and culturally modern family. Eladio Dieste graduated high school in Montevideo and continued to pursue his undergraduate degree in engineering at the University of Republic. After graduating in 1943, he began to work as a professor in the engineering department of the University.
Eladio Dieste was a young graduate who was immensely inclined towards pursuing multiple professions apart from being a professor. During his early years as a professor, Eladio Dieste took a position as an engineer in the National Department of Transportation and Public Works. This churned out his talent in the field of designing structural portions of the buildings that were commissioned.
Beyond an Engineer: A Structural Artist
Working as an engineer at the National Department of Transportation and Public Works, Eladio Dieste gained and was continuing to gain knowledge in the field of engineering and structures. This experience of Eladio Dieste helped him in developing skills that solved the design problems of the projects, which included the collective involvement of multiple professionals like Architects, builders, etc.
Apart from his professional influence that nurtured his creative side, Eladio Dieste’s family and friends being artists and writers also contributed to enhancing his artistic side. Though his entire education was based on engineering, the level of professional and personal interaction about the art of designing a structure beyond engineering fascinated Eladio Dieste and pulled him towards Art and Architecture.
Enhancing Creativity in the American society through Form
“The resistant virtues of the structure that we make depend on their form; it is through their form that they are stable and not because of an awkward accumulation of materials. There is nothing more noble and elegant from an intellectual viewpoint than this; resistance through form.”
[Quote by Eladio Dieste, From: The Engineer’s Contribution to Contemporary Architecture, Page-21].
Soon after, Eladio Dieste established his engineering and construction company, Dieste and Montanez S.A, where he primarily designed structures for everyday use: Churches, Bus terminals, Gymnasiums, Markets, Warehouses, etc. With his knowledge in engineering and material science and a passion for design and architecture, Eladio Dieste not only designed structures with vivid forms but also considered the use of locally available materials in Uruguay like bricks.
His design ideology was based on the philosophy of how a form generated not only resists the current context of the design but also how economically and socially viable it was. Eladio Dieste’s design addressed the social problems of the users, offering a new basis on how the science and art of designing a structure served the people of his country.
Eladio Dieste’s inventions brought structural engineering and architecture into proximity, especially in the area of advanced construction techniques that utilized locally available materials like bricks, ceramic tiles, etc. Eladio Dieste’s buildings represented the Latin American culture that was “expressed” through the symbolic shapes of the vivid structures that looked modern without the use of industrial materials that sky-rocketed since the industrial revolution.
Eladio Dieste was the lord of bricks. Starting with double-curved arches to thin-shelled structures for a roof in single-thickness bricks to folded brick slabs, he aced the brick construction techniques that stood out as masterpieces of art and craft. Eladio Dieste capitalized on the affordable and available aspects of locally available materials like bricks that were both economical and that fit in the context of Uruguayan construction in the Latin American continent.
Father of Reinforced Ceramic Construction
Eladio Dieste, with his collective knowledge in the field of engineering, structures, material science, and architecture invented a new construction technique called “Reinforced Ceramic Construction” that generated an unprecedented shift in the field of engineering and architecture. This hybrid construction technique combined bricks, iron, and mortar as the core materials that form a steady form-work for the construction of thin shells.
The idea of combining reinforcement with masonry added the tensile strength to the entire form-work, making it a light, yet solid prefabricated unit that helped structural design open many folds.
Eladio Dieste’s legacy and the body of work he exhibited for five decades, depicts his intellectual and deeply rooted understanding of the traditions of Uruguay and entire Latin America and beyond. With simple, aspiring, functional, and ascetic structural forms, Eladio Dieste redefined Modernism with a touch of context and climate. Eladio Dieste’s exemplary work portrays the brilliant union of engineering and architecture at its best.