SUPERQUADRAS

Deepa Gopalakrishnan

Alongside the infamous government district, lies Brasilias’ admirable residential axis, which is formed by rows of neighborhood units lined along a 12km highway. The Superquadras came into being as a means to tackle the housing dilemma of the new capital. 

They are composed within a 280m square of apartment buildings. The Superquadras 100, 200 and 300, have six floors while Superquadras 400 has three floors. Their nomenclature is based on their position with respect to the Highway and Monumental Axes and consist of acronyms, of letters and numbers. With a total of 120 Superquadras, 02 to 16 are in the north / south direction, whereas 100 to 400 are in the east / west direction.

Courtesy of Deepa Gopalakrishnan

The first floor is raised on stilts as an attempt to blend the landscape and the building, and to allow for free pedestrian movement, creating an open communal – a concept seen in the Five Points of New Architecture by Corbusier. This innovative ideology of a “super square” as a solution to the residential issue proved its value as an open public forum in community building, contrary to a closed, reserved residential block.

A major inspiration for the superquadra concept was the housing project in 1948 by Lucio Costa – The Parque Guinle. It comprises of six floored buildings with stilts, creating a free ground floor. Like the superblocks, these buildings have cobogós as well as blind side gables. The Superquadras have greenery all over, forming a shaded pedestrian walkway which  gives it a unique identity.

Each Super Quadra was imagined to be autonomous. Every four super blocks were designed to have communal facilities such as churches, schools and cinemas. This group of four superquadras forms the Neighborhood Unit,  which would contain all essential amenities for the residents of that neighbourhood. These Neighborhood Units were not fully implemented. The initially built six model Superquadras acted as a heavy influence on  the organization of the rest. 

© Photographs Courtesy of Joana Franca

Albeit, some of Costa’s ideas could see the realm of reality, many others were hindered by the fast paced growth of Brasilia. Most residents of superquadras hail from the elite and upper middle class, who prefer using higher quality services elsewhere as opposed to using the ones within the block.

The buildings followed the same exterior of six floors on stilts, although their internal conditions were extremely varied. Some of these apartment buildings, housing the dignitaries of the republic, were constantly renovated and kept in good shape. These apartments are very spacious, extremely expensive establishing a hierarchy in the superquadras. The rest of the apartment buildings, however, were not properly maintained, and suffer from serious infrastructure problems. 

Sketch courtesy of Hélio Peixoto
Sketch courtesy of Sedanur Alacam

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