50 years ago Clarice Lispector already pointed out how difficult it was to unveil Brasilia: "the two architects did not think of building beautiful, it would be easy; they raised their amazement, and left the amazement unexplained". This year the capital turned 60, and still remains intriguing for scholars, students, and anyone who allows themselves to explore it better. In order to understand the daily life that exists there, we invited six professionals- in the field of architecture and urbanism - who live in the city, to share their visions with us and bring a few more layers that help to build an interpretation of utopia and reality that Brasília currently represents.
Below, we've compiled excerpts by Daniel Mangabeira, founding partner of Bloco Arquitetos, Gabriela Cascelli Farinasso and Luiza Dias Coelho, alumni of UnB and co-founders of the collective Arquitetas inVisíveis (inVisible Architects), Maribel Aliaga Fuentes, professor and researcher at FAU-UnB , and Luiz Eduardo Sarmento, architect and urban planner at IPHAN and Senior Adviser at IAB-DF, all accompanied by photographs of the Brazilian capital by Joana França.
May Utopia Overcome Dystopia
by Daniel Mangabeira - Bloco Arquitetos
Brasília and quarantine are antagonistic. This city was not invented for cloistered residents. Obviously no cities were designed for this, but the Plano Piloto de Brasília has particularities that make seclusion the antithesis of what it was meant to be. Lucio Costa's French-affiliated city was born to be free, open, and democratic utopia. The celebration of this imagined and real city, therefore, is essential in times of confinement.
The experimental plan cannot be an example to be followed, but what is celebrated here is precisely what is missing in many Brazilian cities: generous and democratic public spaces. Although many of these lawless green voids are not designed to be useful, they are essential for the well-being of their users. Brasilia, in this sense, has great potential to help Brazilians understand what is missing in their cities when everyone starts to leave their enclosures. Norma Evenson wrote an article in which she stated that "there is nothing in the design of Brasília that indicates a desire to harmonize man's works with those of nature". Despite agreeing with this statement and knowing that the cerrado is not present in its voids - which is a pity - nonetheless, the wide green spaces in our city need to boost the value of non-occupation in other cities. What is the importance of a park for health? Why have trees on the street? Why is seeing the horizon important in a city? What is the relevance of emptiness within an urban center? Simple questions can be easily answered by those who live here. Brazilian cities need a little more of Brasilia now more than ever.
The monumental axis presents the most celebrated works of the Plano Piloto, but it is the road axis, on the south and north wings, that best celebrate the great success of Lucio Costa. The city is full of bakeries, bars, corner stores, meetings, markets, churches, fruit shops, gym, florists, schools, and everything we need to live that is monumentally human. This is the city that must be celebrated!
The tribute to the city's 60th anniversary will take place on the superblocks and not on the terraces. It will occur in the utilitarian city, not in the representative one. It will happen where mankind feels protected, and not where he sees himself represented. It will occur for those who live and make their lives in the city and not for those who are passing through for four years. We are in quarantine, so there will be no celebration, but there will certainly be a just and necessary tribute to the one who originally was made to be an experiment, but became a standard. Brasília exists, it is beautiful, imperfect and I am grateful to live in it.
Brasília: Made Only by Men?
by Gabriela Cascelli Farinasso e Luiza Dias Coelho - Arquitetas inVisíveis
Behind every great man is a great woman. A saying as common as it is ancient, has for years synthesized the relationship between architects-, and with Brasília, it would be no different. The process of creating the new Capital has forever cemented the names of Brazilian men as the history of architecture and urbanism. But beside them were women, who in the late 1950s were breaking barriers and writing part of a little-known story. Today, 60 years after its inauguration, it is time for Brasília to recognize the women who helped to build the city, as well as to learn about how women can contribute to the transformation of spaces with more security, accessibility, sustainability and that favor positive social interactions.
Brasília was the dream fueled by the desire to show that we could do something ahead of our time. It was this spirit that enabled the construction of the city in such a short time frame, and the creativity of the first architects and planners who lent a hand for the creation and development of projects for the construction of the new city. Even the competition in Brasilia played an important role in enabling female professional performance.
Despite the low representation, there were women participating in one of the main architecture and urbanism competitions in Brazilian history. Although the reality of the cerrado was so harsh, many women came to the capital with their families to work and study at the University of Brasília. The accomplishments of women there are well documented through membership lists from the Institute of Architects of Brazil - IAB, and lists of commemorative meetings, which indicate that around 30 architects were in the capital in the 1960s and 70s- the period of greatest momentum in local construction.
Among the women involved in the city's inception was Mayumi Watanabe Souza Lima. Mayumi was born in Tokyo, and became Brazilian in 1956. In the same year, she enrolled in the Faculty of Architecture and Urbanism at the University of São Paulo, completing her degree in 1960. She came to Brasília in the early 1960s with Sérgio Souza Lima, her partner and husband, living the collective dream of creating a new University where she developed a master's dissertation, titled "Aspects of Urban Housing", where she faced the challenge of transforming a theoretical discussion of housing into the construction of the city, which at the time was a becoming a design competition¹. The housing project is now realized in the blocks of the São Miguel Neighborhood Unit.
As an architect she designed a series of public school projects for the country, and also was involved in the construction of some of them. In more than thirty years of work with educators, administrators of basic education, daycare centers, and children outside and inside institutions, she discussed and analyzed issues related to spaces for children in our society. Following this line of work, she published two books: Educational Spaces, use and construction (Brasília, MEC / CEDATE, 1986) and A Cidade ea Criança (São Paulo, Nobel, 1989).
Mayumi developed other interests based on his academic experience. She was a professor at the Faculties of Architecture and Urbanism at UnB, in Brasília, Santos, São José dos Campos and the São Carlos School of Engineering. It was affiliated with the Communist Party and had an important role in the discussion about the professional performance of architects from the criticism of the capitalist mode of production. She put her students in contact with the favelas in the first year of study, seeking to politicize the students, as he believed in architecture combined with social changes.
The curiosity that made us revisit the history of architecture in search of female names, presented us with Mayumi Souza Lima and the São Miguel Neighborhood Unit. She is an architect who inspires us with her professional career, personal engagement, and works that are built in the present day.
It took more than 50 years to recognize Mayumi's role in the design of this city, which is why we wish that on this particular anniversary, Brasilia shines a light on the women who helped shape this capital.
On the Small Experiences of Urban Life in the Heart of Brasília
by Maribel Aliaga Fuentes - Professor at the Department of Design, Expression and Representation at FAU-UnB
Today I decided to venture into a new world outside the Superquadras circuit.
Early in the morning I left the Setor Hoteleiro Sul near Parque da Cidade towards Eixinho, crossed the W3 and went down the internal street of the southern commercial sector towards the municipalities sector.
I saw people, commerce and traders. Shoes, clothes, snack bars. People!
The marquee of the buildings shaded the path. The streets, corridors of wind.
I went down the gallery of the states and crossed the Eixão through an underground passage.
To end the adventure as it should, I took a little zebra back to Asa Norte.
It was such an urban experience, that for a brief moment I was happy.
It's All Brasilia!
by Luiz Eduardo Sarmento - architect and urban planner at IPHAN and Senior Adviser at IAB-DF.
"(...) I felt this movement, this intense life of the true Brasilians (...). This is all very different from what I had imagined for this urban center (...). Those Brazilians took care of it who built the city and are legitimately there. In fact, the dream was less than the reality ". - Lúcio Costa²
Brasília is perhaps one of the most exceptional cases of urban growth that we know of.
The capital city is the result of a national public competition, and was designed for approximately 500,000 people. Now, it is the third-largest metropolis in the country, according to IBGE data. Literally, “the dream was less than reality”, as Lúcio Costa said, when he visited the platform of the Rodoviária do Plano Piloto in 1984.
Just as Costa did when visiting the city that was born from his ideologies, it is important that we take a more careful look at how the city operates today. Much is debated about the dreamed Brasilia, but we need to understand the but we still need to understand how the metropolis has grown over the years.
By understanding that Brasília today is much more than what Brasília was planned to be, we will be able to connect the city dwellers of today to those who came to build the capital city and realize the modernist dream many years ago.
Brasília's sixty-year history is very challenging because it is the Brazilian metropolis that emerged from a modernist nucleus, but it also currently presents significant problems that we need to face to provide the solutions that a city that was born under the aegis of demands for urban innovations.
The genetics of the modern city is present in the settlements that have emerged around the Plano Piloto, which underscores the contrast between the urban center and the clear urban sprawl, with a greater span than what is usually observed in other Brazilian metropolises. The evolution of the peripheries is a continuation of the road logic of the Plano Piloto, which is an aggravating factor in the Administrative Regions whose population has a lower income and that infrastructure consumes a considerable part of its resources. In informal settlements, it is common to have shacks whose structure is extremely precarious, but which reserves a space to house its main asset: a car.
The peculiarity of our urban fabric presents daily difficulties, such as transportation problems and the continuous expulsion of the poorest people to the edges of the metropolis, as well as symbolic, cultural, and social problems, such as the small interaction between the various social classes in the city center. Is it all Brasilia if everything is so far away?
One factor that explains this socio-spatial segregation is the distance between the center of Brasília and some administrative regions. Ceilândia, whose name comes from the Invasion Eradication Center, was a settlement promoted by the state to resettle the residents who lived in the camps in the Plano Piloto Region. About 50 years later, Ceilândia became home to old areas of agricultural production and the Sol Nascente community, which was once considered the largest slum in Latin America. Sol Nascente is an exemplary case of these distances, with the more than 30 km separating the Eixo Monumental do Plano and the community.
This enormous distance is so striking for the residents that it was mocked by the filmmaker Adirley Queirós in the film White Out, Black I, in which the population of Ceilândia needed to present a passport to enter into the urban zone of Brasília.
It is essential that the innovative and hopeful spirit that guided the New Capital project be summarized and pushed forward, especially with the adversity our nation currently faces.
We have a big responsibility to (re)design the future of the city's mobility and inequality problems that demand creative actions. Through this, Brasília can return as a standard of urban management, and become a city that can face its mobility problems, precarious housing, lack of urban infrastructure, and absence of afforestation and urban equipment. The challenges are great and our creative and execution capacity needs to be developed on the same scale.
If reality is bigger than a dream, we need to dream even bigger. It is our historical duty.
¹ ALIAGA FUENTES, Maribel ; COELHO, Luíza Dias; TABOSA, Mayara. Aspects of Urban Housing: A critical look from Mayumi Souza Lima to the construction of Brasília .. In: 9º PROJETAR, 2019, Curitiba. Anais 9º PROJETAR 2019. Curitiba, 2019. v. 2.
² COSTA, Lúcio. Ingredients of the Urban Conception of Brasília, 1995. In: XAVIER, Alberto; KATINSKY, Julio (Org.). Brasília: Critical Anthology. São Paulo: Cosac & Naify, 2012. Chap. 5. p. 144-146