A 1950’s science fiction movie set brought to life. This was my first impression after a short trip to Brasília, the capital of
I was also shocked that this modern urban and architectural wonder was built in an incredibly short period of time. Under the command of socialist Juscelino Kubitschek, Brazilian president from 1956-61, Brasília was built in the middle-of-nowhere in just over three years (1957-1960).
The science fiction movie remark is due to the widespread modernist architecture – that is, a rejection of past architectural traditions, tonnes of concrete, and buildings that belong in a futuristic utopia that was imagined 50 years ago.
It is evident that the urban planner, Lúcio Costa, had a clear priority: efficiency and functionality. The city is built with many freeways and roads that lack traffic lights, intersections and sidewalks. A driver’s heaven. A pedestrian’s hell.
The main avenue is lined with countless rectangular government ministries that lead up to three eccentric buildings that are positioned in a perfect triangle. This equilibrium symbolizes the balance of power between the executive, the legislature, and the judiciary. The city is filled with buildings, statues, monuments, etc. that intentionally serve both functional and symbolic roles for the nation’s capital.
For a student of political science, the city’s emphasis on administration is particularly fascinating. I also imagine that architects and urban planners would consider Brasília as an exceptional case study for analyzing what is right (and wrong) with modernism.
Despite being created with the most honourable of intentions and grand ambitions, the 45 year old city suffers from some serious problems.
Its socialist creators aimed to create class-uniting, self-contained residential communities for a city of 500,000 people. Yet in a short amount of time satellite towns popped up in the suburbs – one of which is already larger than
As mentioned, the city is ideal for car owners. Anyone who has to take public transport, mostly the poor, or simply wishes to walk, has to deal with a lack of sidewalks, extensive distances, and a dangerous absence of traffic lights and crosswalks.
The lack of people on the streets gives Brasília a colder, isolated feel. I found the city difficult to associate with what I imagined to be a livelier, colourful culture. And while there is a lot of grass and trees – an abundant 25 square meters per person - the overwhelming amount of concrete, roads and cars, overshadow this well intended initiative.
Admittedly, I was a bit sceptical when I found out that my first trip to
I have long wanted to visit
During visits to
Considering that Brazil almost has five times the population, three times the land mass, and over three times the wealth (in GDP terms) than Argentina, it is logical to expect a one-sided integration and influence. It is not surprising that
Given this complicated relationship, upon arriving in
The most memorable part of the trip was meeting a couple of people, of about my age, who work at the UNESCO office.