Tuesday, November 6, 2007


Brasilia was the first stop on our three city tour of Brazil. A tour which provided us with material for months of posts. We'd like in our next couple posts to do an overview of each city (Brasilia, Sao Paulo, and Rio de Janiero) we visited and then we'll come back in the coming months to do some more in depth coverage on specific subjects. This post will mark the first of what we hope will be many with some photos contributed by photographer Lloyd Paul. Thanks for the contribution Lloyd.

Lúcio Costa and Oscar Niemeyer created something here. Something....
I have to say that had I not spent the last two years in Architecture school, I'd have a very different opinion of this place. I think this change of opinion is a bad thing. I'll spare you the philosophical dribble and just say that Brasilia is an architectural Disneyland. That being said, it makes a perfect subject for this Blog. While visiting Brazil's capital city, I couldn't help thinking how we would present this place. The quantity of buildings to cover is vast. Many of them however serve a singular simple purpose and don't require much explanation, others are much more intricate. So the challenge, a single blog post, and an entire city.

This is arguably the first complete 'modern' city fully planned and executed. 2006 marked the 50th anniversary of Brasilia's birth. It was the vision of one man and executed primarily by only three designers. The visionary was Brazil's President Juscelino Kubitschek who hired Lúcio Costa as the Urban Planner. Costa in turn brought on Oscar Niemeyer as chief architect and Roberto Burle Marx as landscape architect. At the satellite image scale, the city appears like a bird with it's wings spread bordered by the huge artificial Paranoá Lake. At this scale it is hard not to compare Brasilia with its sister city to the North, Washington D.C. Monumentality is the name of the game when designing capital cities. Down at the human scale, one tends to feel like an ant walking exposed in a world of giants ready to stamp their feet down. Walkability is not a term that one would associate with this city. But I guess that wasn't really the point.

Oscar Niemeyer must have really had fun designing this city. His buildings are often very well executed, but one can't help but think he was like a kid in the sandbox when coming up for a strategy to design all the commissions on his plate. There are some circle buildings, some rectangle buildings, some pyramids, and sometimes a combination of the list. All buildings of course had lots of really cool spiral ramps or stairs. It's hard not to sound like a kid when describing these structures. But beyond their simple classifications, Niemeyer's work is much more elegant and sophisticated. His understanding of the limits of reinforced concrete are tested in each building. Stay posted in coming weeks for more specific coverage on Niemeyer buildings in Brasilia and beyond. In the mean time here is a Flickr slideshow from the Oscar Niemeyer Group.

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