Gabriel Joaquim Dos Santos’ Casa Da Flor

Gabriel Joaquim Dos Santos’ Casa Da Flor
São Pedro da Aldeia, Brazil

Gabriel Joaquim Dos Santos (1892-1985) was born to an Indigenous mother and former black slave. He never attended school, working most of his life in the salt flats of northern Rio de Janeiro. In the 1920s, inspired by a dream, he began adorning his small stucco house with found materials: automobile headlights, bits of tin, shells, stones, broken ceramic, links of chains, and other castoffs. He continued for more than 60 years, creating a widening landscape of pedestals, spires, walls, and walkways decorated in signature floral motifs. Like the walls and tunnels in Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens, Dos Santos’ spontaneous, organic architecture became a canvas that made beauty from garbage.

Dos Santos’ Casa da Flor (Flower House) was designated a significant cultural heritage site by the State Institute of Cultural Patrimony in 1987, and by the National Historic and Artistic Heritage Institute in 2016.  

Dos Santos’ name appears in the Long Hallway in the outdoor sculpture garden at Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens.

Biography and photos
Video, Gabriel do Santos: Casa da Flor by the Ministry of Culture (7 minutes; 2013)

Button & Top Photo Credit: Nelson Kon