This essay was written by Rem Koolhaas on the occasion of his first trip to Brasília in August of 2011, and has since remained unpublished. Revista Centro (an online Brazilian magazine about architecture, urban studies, art & social science) has now published it in two versions (English and Portuguese) translated directly from its original language, Dutch. In addition to offering his first impressions about the modern Brazilian capital, Rem also emphasizes an autobiographical narrative about the origins of his relation with architecture.
In 1956 – I don’t remember the exact circumstances – I happened to come upon an article in TIME Magazine about the new Brasília. The article unveiled the plans for a city-to-be, right in the center of the country; a dream of a city that would soon become a reality. It was there and then that my 11-year-old self made a decision: I was to become an architect. And not just any architect – a Brazilian architect. What followed were years of sketching and planning – emigration plans in particular; a rather ambitious project for a grammar-school student. Practicality caught up with me, and for eight years I managed to ignore the Brazilian pull. I became a journalist, and a co-writer of movie scripts. Until the day I realized – and this was nothing less than a revelation to me – that an architect is the one who decides the scripts of daily life. My initial calling rang more clearly in my ears than ever before.
A lot had happened between 1956 – the year TIME published its article – and 1968. By this time I was studying architecture in London. My conviction that architecture is a creative power, one that has led humanity for over three thousand years, was undermined by doubt and flower power. I became an architect at a moment in time when the foundations of architecture itself seemed about to crumble.
Text: Rem Koolhaas
Translation: Eline Ostyn
Revision & Editing: Gabriel Kogan & Rodrigo Villela