24 May

The ICOMI and your Company Towns in the middle of the Amazon rainforest

The initiative to extract manganese from the amazon rainforest is linked to various aspects. Among them, is possible to mention the initiative of curious entrepreneurs, in explore an completely unknown place. Something very remarkable in this history is the audacity attitude, that leaded  to constructted a big infra-structure to a new town, an  architectural project, considered a model for the Amazon Region during a considerable time: Serra do Navio and Vila Amazonas.

The project developed by the Industry and Commerce of Ores (ICOMI) for the exploration of a deposit of manganese ore in Serra do Navio, located in the former Federal Territory of Amapá, can be considered a landmark achievement in Brazil and a positive and inspiring reference about Company Town.

The location of the Village of Serra do Navio. Author: Benjamin Adiron Ribeiro.

Aerial view of the Village of Serra do Navio. Source: Oswaldo Arthur Bratke.

Aerial view of the Village Amazonas. Source: Oswaldo Arthur Bratke.

As determined in a contract signed between the Company and the Federal Government, the ICOMI had the operating license for a period of 50 years, from 1953, under the command of the engineer Augusto Trajano de Azevedo Antunes. The size of the business asked a meticulous urban planning and the construction of industrial facilities for the extraction, circulation and processing of manganese, the transport system (rail, port and highway) and also facilities and infrastructure to meet the possible number of workers and the family members of those involved in the region.

Images: 01: Industries installations to the processing of manganese ore in Serra do Navio; 02: The ore is transported in railways and drives to the Porto of Santana; 03: Manganese deposit in operation in the region of Serra do Navio; 04: Space of maintenance of the railway. Source: Oswaldo Arthur Bratke.

“Two small towns that seem more like a dream from a lyric urban planner’s. Two hundred miles of rail road. A port where transatlantic lean. In cities, there are schools, modern hospital, supermarket, club, swimming pool and cinema. The homes of the workers are so good and beautiful that we stay thinking with melancholy in those small streets like a kind of Village of conference Vincentian that is built in river to house the slums. Water, sewage, telephones and more that is needed to ensure modern comfort in those two islands open in the middle of the forest. You walk a mile beyond the Serra do Navio and you are already within the forest, where fifteen years ago, had only ounce and some buggy. And disease in the stagnant water of flooded áreas.”

Rachel de Queiroz (O Cruzeiro, May 8, 1965).

Ilustrations of the workers houses. Source: Oswaldo Arthur Bratke.

The mechanization of manganese in the village of Serra do Navio started in the 50s. In this period the manganese was one ore of great importance, because it was indispensable in the steel industry during the Cold War, it was then that the former Soviet Union, owns of the largest reserves of manganese, suspended yours exports, in this context, the reserves in Serra do Navio gained enormous importance at the time, declared by President Eurico Gaspar Dutra as ”national reserve”.

In terms of infrastructure, the ICOMI offered the build of a port, maintenance of a navigation canal, railway, roads, production, transmission and distribution of electricity, communication services, supply of goods such as food, clothing and footwear, slaughterhouse, refrigerator, primary education, housing, hospitals, health services and preventive campaigns, supply and treatment of water, advanced system of collection and sewage treatment, collection and disposal garbage.

The Civic Center of Serra do Navio. Source: Oswaldo Arthur Bratke.

The Civic Center of the Village Amazonas. Source: Book Oswaldo Arthur Bratke, 1997.

Educational Complex of elementary school. Source: Book Oswaldo Arthur Bratke, 1997.

Internal and external views of the Hospital. Source: Oswaldo Arthur Bratke.

Internal views of the shopping mall. Source: Oswaldo Arthur Bratke.

In this context, we have two residential villages started in 1957, the Village of Serra do Navio and also was projected the Village Amazonas in the municipality of Santana. One near to the mine (Village of de Serra do Navio) and another near the port (Village Amazonas). In the village of Serra do Navio were built 334 houses in 4 different categories. In which each model of house was designed to house a certain hierarchy of functions within the Company. Were also included in the proposal for workers, two social clubs, an elementary school, a hospital that has long been an international reference, two restaurants, an ecumenical church and a shopping center. In the case of Village Amazonas were built about the same number of houses, lodges, two social clubs, an elementary school, two restaurants, a shopping mall and a cinema.

The houses were delivered furnished to the workers. Source: Oswaldo Arthur Bratke.

Study furniture made by the architect. Source: Oswaldo Arthur Bratke.

In the workshops, artisans were instructed by the ICOMI, they work in the manufacture and assembly of furniture. Source: Oswaldo Arthur Bratke.

The housing units projected by architect Arthur Oswaldo Bratke in 1955, for exploration of manganese ore in Amapá are references as proposals from cities closed, also known as Company Towns. Because, this is an innovative project to the standards of mining towns. Although Serra do Navio it’s a distance of 200 miles from the capital state,  Macapá, and Village Amazonas it’s a distance of 16 miles, the villages were projected as autonomous centers, served by a complete infrastructure in which the architect had been touched in their search for comfort and the initiative from him by visiting the region for several times and experiencing climate issues, economic and material resources. This visits of the architect also happen for other Towns Company distributed throughout South America, however, according to reports Bratke, these visits served more for guidance about what not to project than to look for another models.

Bratke Outline for the comfort study of cross ventilation and long eaves that control the sunlight and provide protection against the rains. Source: Oswaldo Arthur Bratke.

On the left Oswaldo Arthur Bratke and on the right one of the visits of him by the region. Source: Oswaldo Arthur Bratke.

“It’s recommend, for the conviviality friendly and sustainable in villages such as from the Amapá, the hiring of experts in Social Relations and promoter of sports, social, to become the busiest leisure time, thus avoiding a damaging apathy to life in society.” BRATKE (Memorial Project).

The development and deployment of the two towns resulted of a meticulous and remarkable mobilize human, resources and sacrifices. With major developments with regard to the possibility of human occupation, plausible of disciplined discussion, of any kind of criticism, whether justified or unfair, but they recorded in a positive way and historical the meaningful participation of the territory of Amapá national and even international.

“I always believed that one urban deployment should be done in the feature of your inhabitant and not an imposition which he has to adapt.”

Oswaldo Bratke

On the left, the original house projected by the Bratke (with a simple modification with a blue canvas in your facade) and on right, a house that has large modern modifications in your structure. Source: Suéllen Conceição.

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