A BRAZILLIAN UTOPIA

Deepa Gopalakrishnan

©2010 Joana França

With a multitude of changes and disparities in the world, it seems delusional to fancy a world devoid of societal ills – a utopia. First coined, as an imaginary island enjoying the utmost perfection in legal, social, and political systems, in 1516 by Sir Thomas Moore, the word utopia meant “ no place”.

The idea of a utopia has been preeminent for many of the avant garde architecture movements in order to constitute an ideal social order. For some, these aspirations ended with the destruction of the Pruitt-Igoe estate in 1972, or were reversed by a return to ‘complexity and contradiction’ (Venturi 1966), and for others, the end of the ‘idea’ was signified with the destruction of the Berlin wall in 1989 and the subsequent collapse of Soviet socialism. These utopian ideas hope to create a world with liberation and social order.

The beginning of the twentieth century brought devastation and destruction from the world war. In architecture, the modernist movement was beginning to take shape and architects believed that their buildings could solve the problems of the world. They envisioned new utopian cities devoid of societal ills hailing from depraved bourgeois sentiments. The Athens Charter by CIAM  had a significant impact on urban planning after World War II.The concept of the Functional City started to rise and observations taken from the studies of 33 cities set guidelines under the titles: living, working, recreation and circulation in order to constitute the ideal ways of life and a functioning city as the utopian dream.

Ville radieuse , Le Corbusier

The connection between architecture and utopian planning have been long pervasive. Brasilia sprang into existence from the airplane master plan by Lucio Costa. Brasilia embodies the dreams of LeCorbusier, CIAM, and the Soviet modernists. Like Le Corbusier’s Ville Radieuse, it was seen as a method of imposing order, progress and stability to Brazil’s new capital. Like Le Corbusier, Costa and Oscar Niemeyer desired to beget a capital city anchored  on the grounds of equality.

Lúcio Costa envisioned the planning of Brasilia as a phenomenon of the Functional City. The airplane plan adopted for the city was selected in a national competition. From among the twenty six entries, the one of Lucio Costa was unique, it conceived of the city as a rigid, integrated urban form that offers the opportunity to dictate a monumental structure to the city, whereas all the other entries provided an organic growth for the city.

© Joana França

The emergence of a new capital from scratch in three years was grounded less in an ideology or a call for “order,” but rather in a “hope” for the future.“Hope” was a key element in Leninist Oscar Niemeyers’ design and vision of Brasilia. Brasilia, is indeed, a city of promises- it promised to symbolize President Kubitscek’s motto of “fifth year of progress in five”; it promised an egalitarian model diminishing class division; it promised to unify the country and to earn fame from all over the world. 

©2010 Joana França

It was a promise of a future, the future that never came, where all live in apartment complexes together devoid of class differences,  where walking is replaced by automobiles, where there is no traffic jams, where street names are merely numbers and alphabets, where everything is scientifically plotted, where individual beliefs are replaced by common good , where all neighborhoods look alike, where form really does follow function, where less really is more.

But more than anything, it promised to symbolize Brazilian self sufficiency, national progress, hope, innovation and democracy.

Someother Magazine

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