Brasília – How a Constructed Capital Changed a Whole Country’s Heritage

HeritageForAll – Global Collaboration Program (2017)

By Gabriela Corrêa Senna (g.senna@hotmail.com)

Gabriela is Brazilian one. She is an undergraduate student in Architecture and Urban Planning at Pitagoras Faculty in Uberlandia, Minas Gerais, Brazil.

Abstract

The Pilot Plan touched the ground in the exact center of Brazil. For political reasons, the idea has been shifted the focus from Brazil’s overpopulated coast to its unexplored interior and then, to centralize the country. What happened was way bigger than that. With Lúcio Costa’s urbanism Master Plan and Oscar Niemeyer’s buildings, Brazil developed a whole new concept of a modernist city. It has been showed that a new and simple way of living could be possible. It is, even being so young, a truly Brazilian legacy, that unified the country as a nation before the whole world.

Keywords

Architecture – Urbanism – Heritage – Brasília – Brazil – Oscar Niemeyer – Lúcio Costa –
Constructed Capital

Introduction

Few global capitals are not highly populous cities in its state. The Brazilian capital “Brasília” is one of these exceptions. It was founded in 1960, so it is only 57 years old. It is considered one of the youngest capitals worldwide. Even being so young, its constructions impacted the country with the development of its own architecture and urbanism movement in Brazil.

A new capital “Brasília”, at the middle of the country, was being thought since the 18th century. Since its discovery by the Portuguese mission, Brazil has a very large territory. Its development was limited to its coastal areas and the gold cycle in Minas Gerais, and then, it was integrated with the rest of the country. With the first republic constitution, Brasilia’s constructions were settled and the municipality was established. On the other hand, when Juscelino Kubitschek was the president of Brazil in 1956, the construction was started and continued for four years later on a very tight schedule. Lucio Costa was a responsible for the urbanistic plan while Oscar Niemeyer was a responsibel for the architecture development of the city.

Before founding Brasília, Brazil was ruled from the historical Brazilian capital “Rio de Janeiro” where was suffered from the demand of overpopulation. Brazilian people were going there and leaving the countryside and the interior of the country where was more broader than the coastal part. After founding the new capital at the middle of Brazilian geography, there was a decentralization system to rule the national affairs including the industries and the local investments upgrading the living standards that could introduce a new way of life-based on Le Corbusier’s Modernist Movement.

Brasília is a Brazilian image, and even being so young. It was a phase of manifests and public participation in the government. It is also considered an international icon. Brasília was honored as Humanity Patrimony in 1987. Moreover, there are many authors who viewed it as one of the most important historical urbanistic architectural projects. Brasília, as a young city, was enhanced the sense of belonging, and citizenship or, in the other words, a cultural identity that plays a part of the sustainable development with indigenous communities interacting socially, economically and environmentally with the surrounding cultural landscape (UNESCO, 2012).

The Power of a City

In 1989, Brasília was constructively completed. A city could be divided into two part. At the same time, another part of Brasilia could be integrated creating the whole country (Koolhaas, 2011). Unfortunately, Brazilian capital could not exist in its classical shape. Brasília has been formed in the shape of an airplane pointing forward (Koolhaas, 2011): a simple and solid plan, as it should be.

The Pilot Plan includes the intersection of two axes and the hierarchical distribution of the road system. The city was divided into sectors with their perspective characteristics and requirements, the network of open and green spaces, and the Esplanade of the Ministries and representative structures which made up the monumental axis. The wings of the airplane consisted of over 130 so-called “super-blocks”. A city of 1,500 apartment blocks was totally supported on pillars which to provide the landscape and to flow the people beneath and around them. This rearranges creating more ideas such as a grand administrative center and green public spaces which review a new feature of urban living.

Lúcio Costa thought about how a city could fulfill compiling both of an individual and collective life. It is so called “a scale game”. The first scale is Lúcio Costa thought about how a city could fulfill compiling both of an individual and collective life. It is so called “a scale game”. The first scale is residential to provide the requirement of a daily life. It brings a sense of individuality and simplicity which was shown in the regular drawing of apartments and buildings; as well as full of green and built above pillars, consequently, everyone could walk through it. It is centered at the thoroughfare axis where the neighborhood units are distributed and divided between the north and south wing. The second scale is to provide the requirement of a daily life. It brings a sense of individuality and simplicity which was shown in the regular drawing of apartments and buildings; as well as full of green and built above pillars, consequently, everyone could walk through it. It is centered at the thoroughfare axis where the neighborhood units are distributed and divided between the north and south wing. The second scale is the monumental scale where the men acquire a collective dimension. Brasília owns the status of “the capital of the country”, where the nation’s administrative functions are performed. It views the significance of having a collective life that the individual is a part of something bigger than the urban entity. The third one is where the men acquire a collective dimension. Brasília owns the status of “the capital of the country”, where the nation’s administrative functions are performed. It views the significance of having a collective life that the individual is a part of something bigger than the urban entity. The third one is gregarious that dimensions and scale are smaller and concentrated to build an environment that is possible to form a group. It shows the balance between the two first ones. This is situated at the intersection of the two axes, where is located the business buildings, banks, service centers and all of the collective life-derived requirements. The last scale is that dimensions and scale are smaller and concentrated to build an environment that is possible to form a group. It shows the balance between the two first ones. This is situated at the intersection of the two axes, where is located the business buildings, banks, service centers and all of the collective life-derived requirements. The last scale is the bucolic one. Full of emptiness, green areas, and parks, on the banks of Paranoa Lake, a peaceful and calm life can also exist, in the middle of a country capital city. It gives Brasília its unique city-park aspect. (Costa, 1961)

Oscar Niemeyer’s Line

A line, in a complex world, has a negative connotation. However, in architecture, if something comes true after a one-line sketch, it is a proof of geniality (Koolhaas, 2011). Brasília is a singular artistic achievement and a prime creation of the human genius. It is the living expression of the principles and ideals of the Modernist Movement. On his work, there are no-nonsense, nothing superfluous, and no unnecessary details.

Oscar’s unique architecture is based on an interaction of the population-derived characteristics. It has a synthetic shape – elementary, clear and easy shapes. It makes easier to understand and recall the buildings. Because of that, it has a high symbolic value. The structure is the shape of the buildings and it is a decisive point because makes easier to define both. There is a clear bridge between the sketch and the execution of the project, and there is too little to add after defining the main elements. Another remarkable point is predictability. His work is easily recognized because it has his own mark, and people feel being comfortable and nationalistic. Subsequently, Oscar Niemeyer is considered one of the most famous Brazilian architect national and internationally, although he declares that his intention with his works is to cause astonishment. In sum, the universality of his work is the best quality that made his projects so important in Brasília, taking into account, that is a heritage of the country. By universality, Brasilia has been meant that it is easy to identify a Brazilian building because of its unique shape. One of the most important characteristics of modern art is significant of involving the observer to be finished. For instance, the building is always being recreated from the interaction. It is necessary that the observer has the knowledge about the subject and the building provides the accessibility factor. All of this does a connection between a country and its heritage creating a big interaction. Oscar’s buildings are touchable. As elementary, shapes characterize them, the observer’s job is easy, regardless of his origin, age, or gender. Another meaning of universality that can fit perfectly here is that his buildings are generic. It means that they can be used for many purposes, saving the time and lasting forever as a country’s heritage (Mahfuz, 2007).

Museu Nacional Honestino Guimarães (©Joana França)

Conclusion

In 1987, Brasília was inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List realizing its cultural significance. It was constructed deeply at the geographical center of Brazil along only three years, therefore, it is a unique summa of the modernist concept of architecture and urbanism. Its significance is beyond being the capital of the country and it represents a new approach to urban living. Brasília has preserved its original guiding principles intact as a unique example of modern urbanism, human concept or the new way of living. It is also the country’s authentic traditional architecture. For a new country, like Brazil, it is very important to have something to activate the sense of belonging, and Brasilia’s unique architecture which was developed by Oscar Niemeyer. Brasília is a heritage that can be the inspiration for the future, which can be misunderstood as asking the modernity to stop, but it is not like that. Brasília shows that heritage can be prospective instead of the retrospective.

References

  • COSTA, Lúcio. (1961). About Brasília’s construction. Jornal do Brasil.
  • KOOLHAAS, Rem. Brasília. (2011). Brasília. Revista Centro.
  • MAHFUZ, Edson. (2007). Five reasons to pay attention in Oscar Niemeyer’s work. Revista aU.
  • UNESCO. (2012). Culture: a Driver and an Enabler of Sustainable Development. UN System Task Team on the Post-2015 UN Development Agenda. Thematic Think Piece. Retrieved from www.un.org/millenniumgoals/pdf/Think%20Pieces/2_culture.pdf

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