Deep in Brazil’s Amazon, Exploring the Ruins of Ford’s Fantasyland

Deep in brazil’s amazon, exploring the ruins of ford’s fantasyland
© Brian Denton

The Amazon jungle already swallowed the Winding Brook Golf Course. Floods ravaged the cemetery, leaving behind a stockpile of concrete crosses. The 100-bed hospital designed by the acclaimed Detroit architect Albert Kahn? Plunderers destroyed it.

Given the scale of decay and decrepitude in this town — founded in 1928 by the industrialist Henry Ford in the far reaches of the Amazon River Basin — I didn’t expect to come across the stately, largely well-preserved homes on Palm Avenue. But there they were, thanks to the squatters.

“This street was a looters’ paradise, with thieves taking furniture, doorknobs, anything the Americans left behind,” said Expedito Duarte de Brito, 71, a retired milkman who dwells in one of the homes built for Ford managers in what was planned to be a utopian plantation town. “I thought, ‘Either I occupy this piece of history or it joins the other ruins of Fordlândia.’”

In more than a decade of reporting from Latin America, I made dozens of trips to the Amazon, lured back time and again by its vast rivers, magnificent skies, boomtowns, lost civilizations and tales of hubris consumed by nature. But somehow I never got to Fordlândia.

That finally changed when I boarded a riverboat this year in Santarém, an outpost at the confluence of the Amazon and Tapajós rivers, and made the six-hour trip to the place where Ford, one of the world’s richest men, tried turning a colossal swath of Brazilian jungle into a Midwest fantasyland.

I explored the outpost on foot, wandering the ruins and talking to gold prospectors, farmers and descendants of plantation workers who live here. Hardly a lost city, Fordlândia is home to about 2,000 people, some who live in the crumbling structures built nearly a century ago.

Ford, the automobile manufacturer who is considered a founder of American industrial mass-production methods, hatched his plan for Fordlândia in a bid to produce his own source of the rubber needed for making tires and car parts like valves, hoses and gaskets. […]

Aline Chahine
Aline is an international licensed architect currently practicing in Canada, she is the reason you are reading this right now, Aline founded the platform back in 2008 shaping the very foundation of Architecture Lab, her exemplary content curation process that defines the online magazine today.
Aline Chahine
Aline Chahine
Aline is an international licensed architect currently practicing in Canada, she is the reason you are reading this right now, Aline founded the platform back in 2008 shaping the very foundation of Architecture Lab, her exemplary content curation process that defines the online magazine today. Highlights Aline founded Architecture Lab in 2008 Lead editor of dan | dailyarchnews since 2019 Founded and Creative Director of DesignRaid Licensed architect with creative sales and marketing experience Experience As full-fledged architect, Aline's background involved a great deal of research that lead to the creation of Architecture Lab as an online database of exemplary design. Her experience snowballed into founding two architecture platforms, Architecture Lab and DesignRaid. Education Aline received USEK’s Master of Architecture in 2004 and BA in English from the University of Toronto
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About Architecture Lab Architecture Lab is a MKR.S Media brand, a website devoted to extraordinary design and aesthetics aiming to promote exceptional aesthetic values and sustainable design in all it's shapes and sizes. Learn more about us and our editorial process and feel free to contact us if you would like to see something in particular on the website, our certified experts will get back to you with the most trustworthy advice as soon as possible. Read all articles by Aline | Follow her on LinkedIn

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