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Good Morning Balkers: Brasilia and Modernism

I have mentioned this before on the kinjaverse, but a time ago I went traipsing around Brasil with friends. One stop was Brasilia, where we stayed with a friend. I have many fond memories of that trip but one aspect I'll never be able to forget was the architecture.

I always felt that the architecture in Brasilia was someone's idea of what the future would be. It was odd because while it tried to feel so light and airy, you knew that everything was an immense weight since it was concrete. You couldn't escape the dissonance of the intention of beauty limited by materials.


Oscar Neimeyer, the modernist architect who is credited with much of Brasilia's architecture, defended his work in a 2005 New York Times profile:

''You may not like Brasília, but you can't say you have seen anything like it — you maybe saw something better, but not the same. I prefer Rio, even with the robberies. What can you do? It's the capitalist world. But people who live in Brasília, to my surprise, don't want to leave it. Brasília works. There are problems. But it works. And from my perspective, the ultimate task of the architect is to dream. Otherwise nothing happens.''

It is hard to argue with his sentiment. There were plenty of people in Brasilia, and the buildings, for all that they felt incongruent were still identifiable as a singular entity. I can't think of another city I've been to like it - the closest thing off the top of my head that reminds me of Brasilia is the City Hall of Toronto, another Modernist structure.


Brasilia doesn't have the benefit of other more modern buildings surrounding it's structures. Strangely, even though the design of the Toronto City Hall is distinct from the buildings around it, it doesn't stick out as maddeningly. But place a structure like that amongst similar ones interspersed with grass? While this is obviously not an accurate depiction of what Brasilia is, it does represent what it felt like:


I am being hard, perhaps, so I'll concede that it is a beautiful city and that individually the buildings are magnificent. Also, as a compliment to his city, I disagree on one thing Neimeyer had to say. Despite its natural beauty, I did not like Rio more. Especially with the robberies. Though I'm sure that whoever stole my beach bag with those sweet jorts regretted their decision as much as I regret having to acknowledge I owned them.

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