The Art of Storytelling

Renan Teuman
Deepa Gopalakrishnan

With drawings and texts from local artists, the issue attempts to showcase Brasilia through the lens of these unique encounters which makes the city what it is in its truest essence. We get a glimpse of life in Brasilia through the eyes of our beloved artists who share their daily ventures and activities.

Each of these artists through their different styles and interests, reveal Brasilia for what it is and what the city, their home, means to them while revealing its culture, inhabitants, joys and its problems. These unique, distinct encounters and recordings through a journey of subjective recollections of the city, helps us unveil a deeper dimension of understanding.

We hope you join us through this literary and artistic journey of these differently framed personal recordings and view the city with its multitude of faces.


21 x 60
21 drawings for the 60 years of Brasília.

At the beginning of the pandemic, I proposed a drawing challenge to my children and nephews. We had to draw everyday until the end of the confinement, which I thought wouldn’t be so long, from a list of words that they were listening and learning. We call the challenge quarantINK – in recent years I have been participating in INKtober and I have become an enthusiast of the format. Of course, we couldn’t draw until the end, but we produced a lot of drawings for about 30 days.

During this experience I was preparing a project for the university with the idea of celebrating the 60th anniversary of Brasilia for one of my classes. As the pandemic and social isolation stopped everything here in the capital (we were the first to stop in Brazil), the project was suspended.

As I was already drawing in this INK format and thinking about creative ways to par- ticipate in the city’s anniversary, I thought of calling some artists and content creators nearby to think of a design challenge that could celebrate the date in a way adapted to the reality that was presented. With the help of my great friend, collaborator Selma Oliveira (@selma_olli), we thought about the format, the details and the list of words (typical of “brasiliense” culture) for the challenge.

We designed from April 1 to April 21 (anniversary day) and brought together ama- teurs, professionals and passionate artists in the city.

Luciano Mendes

What is your relationship to Brasilia?

I was born in Brasília and have always lived in the city. My parents came to town in the late 1960s and took root here. The city is a total part of my identity and as a child, I found it strange that other cities had names of people – not numbers and letters – as an address.

What do you like to draw about the city?

I like to mix references from pop culture, the particularities of the city’s peripheries and the features and colors of the region where the city is located (the Cerrado biome).

What is it you intend to capture in your drawings of Brasilia?

What I like to represent the most is the mixture of cultures of the city. Most people see Brasília as a cold city and dominated by the country’s political affairs, but what interests me most is showing that the city is alive, complex and full of creative possibilities.

What’s your favorite place in Brasilia?

Difficult to choose only one. As a child, I loved to be a tour guide for my relatives and the highlight of my explanations was in the Cathedral of Brasilia – one of Niemeyer’s most beautiful drawings. Today the University of Brasilia (where I teach), is one of my most beloved places for its open and welcoming atmosphere. Today (in isolation), I miss enjoying the City Park, the Super Quadras and their unique spaces and shops.

What are some things you don’t like about Brasilia?

What bothers me most today is the precarious public transport and the lack of pedestrian sidewalks and functional bike lanes.

How does it feel to be a pedestrian in Brasilia?

As the last answer shows, I feel, as a pedestrian, threatened and excluded from the dynamics of the city. The funny thing is that in the most remote neighborhoods of the city (which we call “Satellite Cities”) the pedestrian culture is more valued and present.

Lima Neto

What is your relationship to Brasilia?

I was born 43 years ago in the northeast part of Brazil, in a city called São Luis, the capital city of the state of Maranhão. With me, a one year old, my family moved
to by the growing influx of people coming from every state of Brazil to try and find their dreams in the new capital. Nowadays, I live in Taguatinga, one of the most economically independent Satellite cities of the Distrito Federal (Federal District, DF). As I went to the federal university for my education as a student in UnB (the federal university of Brasília), my relationship with Brasília changed radically. First, it was a place to visit, like an amusement park, and as I kept coming everyday to Plano Piloto (something like “Guide Plan”, it was the name of the urban planning structured by Lúcio Costa and it became the name of Brasília for those who lived in the Satellite Cities) for studies and work, it started to grow on me as a real place, with real problems. Sadly, the satellite cities lack the same quality of social care that the government keeps running on the Plano Piloto. That leaves a great amount of despair amongst the population of those cities and slowly, my relationship with the city has become tainted by these problems. So, I love Brasília, but I tend to see the city as a gimmick, a shiny souvenir that embellishes the government desks. So, with the BrINKsília project, I tried to find a balance between these problems and the beauty of a city that is a dream in many aspects, and as a dream, has its own beauty and poetics.

What do you like to draw about the city?

I love the contrast in its geometry, that of the planned side of the city, with its more flexible and wild side, the side of the population and their dreams, its symbols and the reality of everyday living.

What is it you intend to capture in your drawings of Brasilia?

I intend to try and peel off the image of “a perfect architectural achievement” that it sells, and capture what’s underneath, but with some poetry.

What’s your favorite place in Brasilia?

Well, I have to say that it is what a friend of mine called “the old center” of Brasília. Right in the center, next to the Central Bus Station, there’s the South Entertainment Sector (Setor de Diversão Sul), which is commonly known as CONIC. It was a place destined for entertainment of the wings (south wing and north wing) and until the late eighties had cinemas and bars. But, it was a place with a bad reputation because of the strip tease clubs that opened at night and it soon became a place for drug trafficking and crimes. As a result, the place became the focal point of the rock n roll youth, with some classic record stores. It was the place for the punk com- munity and by the end of the nineties, with most of its crime problems solved, with a police department built within it, the place became some sort of an alternative mall filled with music stores and theaters (it was in Conic that Brasilia had its first acting school: The Dulcina art school and theater). It was there that opened the first comic book store in Brasília, which I worked at as a young man and became the owner of, some years later. Conic became a synonym for culture. It was the place where everyone met from every satellite town, because it was close to the Central Bus Station. Sadly, the place fell under a dispute of power with the churches (that bought the old cinemas) and some political forces, and most of the place is now blocked for a visit due to reconstructions that came to a halt some 2 years ago. The place is getting choked, so the old shops are closing (as happening to my store), and we don’t know what it will become.

What are some things you don’t like about Brasilia?

As I said, the way all the money goes there, and quite a few goes to the rest of the DF. The population of Brasília is often alienated to the problems of the world around them. Some of them never even got out of Plano Piloto and never saw a satellite city in their lives.

How does it feel to be a pedestrian in Brasilia?

Boy, now that’s a problem. I don’t drive. But, to be a pedestrian here in Brasilia is something really hard. The place was not planned to walk. Everything is very far away, and the public transportation is close to useless. Since every Plano Piloto citizen has a car, most of the public transportation is directed towards the people from the Satellites, along with all the injustices that come with this distinction. The buses are old and clunky, the timetables don’t work and the tickets are very expen- sive. Even the subway is problematic since the stations cover only a tiny piece of the territory. Brasília is like a heaven for services like Uber, since it covers the needs of a great part of the population.

Alexsandro Almeida

What is your relationship to Brasilia?

I was born in a city in the interior of Bahia and came to Brasília to study Industrial Design/Graphic Design in a university because there wasn’t one in my city. I studied here in Brasilia and because I felt welcomed by the city, I was building my life here. I got mar- ried, had kids, made friends and am working in this wonderful city. So my relationship with the city is that it’s a part of my life. I can’t imagine life without Brasília.

What do you like to draw about the city?

I like to draw and paint the diversity of Brasília present in its population, in its vegetation, its fauna, its architecture, culture, and the interaction of people with the city.

What is it you intend to capture in your drawings of Brasilia?

I want to show that there is an organic quality, movement, diver- sity, beauty, dynamics, and joy in the city; that it is not limited to the hardness and coldness of concrete, used usually to describe the city.

What’s your favorite place in Brasilia?

The University of Brasilia is my favorite place. Maybe, because it was the place where I spent the most time when I came to live here. There, I witness diversity, I appreciate the vegetation of the Cerrado Brasiliense, the architecture, the artistic expressions, the intellectual and scientific production; it is a place that I feel good about being in and attending.

What are some things you don’t like about Brasilia?

The public transport and traffic are very complicated here in Brasilia. Public transport is very bad and the volume of cars in the center is very large. Habitation and rents are very expensive, allowing only people with better financial conditions to live in the center, making the less economically favored people to reside in the surrounding.

How does it feel to be a pedestrian in Brasilia?

Despite having many places that favor a walk and local trades between residential blocks, many trees and respect for the pe- destrian strip, I think that the sectorization of some activities and the long distance between these sectors, between some agencies and accessibility problems end up harming the lives of pedestri- ans, especially the elderly and people with mobility difficulties. But in a general way there is plenty of space for pedestrians.

We are curious about the Zebra with the bus drawings, what’s the story behind that?

A few years ago, here in Brasilia, there were many small buses that made short journeys and circulated frequently in the capital. These small buses were painted with red stripes and were soon nicknamed “Zebrinhas” and became a part of Brazilian culture.

Thiago Teixeira de Andrade

What is your relationship to Brasilia?

I was born and raised in Brasília, so it’s pretty difficult to answer this question ob- jectively. As an architect who studied and lived my whole life in the “Plano Piloto”, having spent a rich and diverse childhood in a superblock, on the public open pilotis under the apartments, I experienced the public space as a dominant reality and with broad perspectives. In the superblock the ground floor is public, and even as kids we had this notion. As soon as someone with a different background and world view tried to limit our freedom of use in those spaces we ́d claim: “It’s public! I’m allowed to be here”. So, the sensation was that everything was available and we were free. Liberty was pretty much a practice, not a discourse.

How was it to be a part of IAB-DF? (Instituto de Arquitetos do Brasil – Departamento do Distrito Federal)

IAB is both a school and a place for real action, a place for a broader professional practice. It demands a lot, but repays you emotionally and in terms of relevance. Time dedicated to common causes is always gratifying. One will also face chal- lenges that a private or teaching practice could not provide. It is the first step to widen the view of Brasília as a metropolis.

What is IAB-DF fighting for and what are their main points of action?

In essence, IAB is a cultural and political institution, independent and completely self financed. The right to the city, the defense of the World Heritage site of Brasília and the discussion and proposition of urban planning and other urban agendas are the main general efforts. Historically, IAB is the organizer and advocates for architectural and urban design competitions as the main democratic and effective way for hiring designs and some other services in our field; as well as defending innovations in the housing agenda.

How can Brasília be brought to a more contemporary agenda in urban terms?

Specially addressing one of the main problems in the world metropolises: mobility and mass transportation. And, by doing so, decrease the distances, and save natural resources pointing towards a more sustainable future.

What’s your favorite place in Brasília?

The Superblock and Paranoá Lake.

What are the current day impacts of Lucio Costa’s master plan of Brasília on urban infrastructure development and housing?

Lucio Costa ́s Plano Piloto must not be seen divorced from the whole great Brasília metropolitan area, that is to say, the third metropolis in Brazil, with circa 4.5 million people living here. Around 300 thousand inhabitants live in the World Heritage site (a little bigger area than the “airplane” that corresponds to the design Lucio Costa presented for competition in 1957), but 700 thousand more people come to Brasilia everyday. It still concentrates circa 40% of the job seats and more than 60% of the income. So it’s vital to address the social and spatial inequality of the great metropolitan area. And Lucio Costa’s master master plan is vital for those strategies to flourish, not just because of its innate relevance, but because it’s the central hub of a radial urban fabric that is tending to disappear towards a more complex urban dispersion. So it ́s key that those new trends get proper and long-term planning.

Can you talk a bit about Habita Brasília?

It was conceived as a broad perspective plan, addressing the fundamental issues of housing in multiple terms. Five lines of action aimed to solve, in the coming years, three main problems: property informality (land legalization), housing deficit, and illegal occupation. The five lines are: rent subsidies (Aluguel Legal), public credit for citizens when buying housing made in public terrains (Portas Abertas), providing empty infrastructured lots for people to build their own housing (Lote Legal), technical assistance with investments in renovations and improvements regarding people living in precarious houses (Projeto na Medida) and the usual new buildings financed by the federal government with the help of public land provided by the local government (Minha Casa Minha Vida).

How does it feel to be a pedestrian in Brasília?

Around the superblocks, about 2km radius wide, it’s wonderful to walk. The open- ness of the spaces, the pilotis making virtually no barrier at all, lets you decide among multiple ways to go. I never take the same path whenever going back and forth anywhere. But if you want to walk around the other areas of the town, especially during the harsh, dry season or in the heavy rain days, you ́ll find it very difficult. The open views and perspectives make you see exactly where to go, but, on the other hand, makes you undermine the distance. So, beware!

What is something you don’t like about Brasília?

The dependency of the private automobile.

Luisa Melo

What is your relationship to Brasilia?

I was born and raised in Brasilia so my relationship with my city
is, since the beginning, both geographical and emotional. Being raised in Taguatinga, one of the satellite neighborhoods, made me feel, since a young age, what it is to live outside the planned and utopic Plano Piloto. The feeling of both belonging and being excluded shapes the way I start to perceive my own city. The lens through which I see Brasilia helped me to ask some questions which led me to develop my undergraduate project called Brasilia Sketchbook: Um olhar intimista sobre a cidade de Brasília. This project was the start of my career, both as an artist who loves urban sketching and also as an academic focused on Urban Sociology theory.

What do you like to draw about the city?

I like to draw places that I’m emotionally attached to, places full of personal memories of everyday life. When I developed the series of illustrations for the Brasilia Sketchbook project, I intended to not reproduce any of the touristic and famous buildings of the city. My goal was that my landscapes would be recognized by any local dweller, but a tourist would probably struggle identifying where that scene is. That decision ended up being a unique aspect of my illustrations by showing the “hidden” part of the city.

What is it you intend to capture in your drawings of Brasilia?

I’ve spent an average of 4 hours on site to draw each of the land- scapes in the Brasilia Sketchbook series. Spending that long in a place, I’ve experienced much movement and many micro stories that happened around me as I was drawing. That environment allowed me to capture the landscape of Brasilia’s everyday life that I was looking for.

What’s your favorite place in Brasilia?

My favorite area in the city is the North Wing around the 400 superblocks, more precisely between the 403 and 408. I have passed through all possible paths around that area, always choosing a different way to come back home from the University. By that time, I had finally experienced myself as a resident of one of these famous superblocks that were once so far from me when I lived in one of the satellite neighborhoods. Another place that defenitely can’t be out of my list is the Universidade de Brasilia.

What is something you don’t like about Brasilia?

What I hate the most about Brasilia is the pretentious idea of its urban design to determine how people should behave within its built environment. Because Brasilia’s planning is based on the modernist ideas of CIAM, it’s impossible to be a flaneur around its streets. The distances are too long to walk around, the human scale forgotten, and the landscape is too homogeneous.

How does it feel to be a pedestrian in Brasilia?

Pedestrians were completely forgotten when the city was de- signed. It’s too hard to be a pedestrian here, the distances are too long, the weather could make it even harder with our long dry season. The city itself was designed for automobiles, you can easily feel that while trying to cross the “Eixao”. This same avenue which allows automobiles to cross the city at a high speed, works as a real boundary for pedestrians who have to use dangerous underneath crossways to access the other side of the city.

Murilo Frade

What is your relationship to Brasilia?

I was born in the city of Rio de Janeiro City but raised in Brasília, where I grew up, studied and have always worked. Here, I grad- uated in Architecture and Urbanism and after my retirement, to this day, I am exclusively dedicated to visual arts. Brasília is my place, the place I have learned to relish and admire, in spite of my criticisms of it as an architect and urbanist.

What do you like to draw/paint about the city?

My sources of inspiration are the architectural curves typical of Oscar Niemeyer ́s projects, Burle Marx ́s landscapes and Athos Bulcão ́s drawings. But I also like to explore the concept of the organization of the city project, albeit I deconstruct it in some of my abstract paintings. The works of my “Urban Series” portrait spaces and features traditional or unplanned cities as well. It is, at the same time, an opposition to the harshness of the planning of Brasília and a criticism of the rampant growth and real estate speculation that led to both verticalization and creation of slums in a large part of traditional Brazilian cities and, in a way, other major cities throughout the world.

What is it you intend to capture in your abstract paintings of Brasilia?

Besides the bright mixture of colours, I also try to reflect in some of my abstract paintings Brasilia ́s typical geometrism, neoplasticism, concretism and constructivism that inspired its modernist concep- tion. In other paintings, as mentioned previously, the architectural curves are the source of inspiration and expression for my work.

What’s your favorite place in Brasilia?

The urban space that I like the most is the inner part of “Super- quadra Sul 308”, conceived as a model residential square. And here, I pay tribute to Lúcio Costa, who conceived the city ́s urban- istic plan. Not only the architectural and urbanistic elements of the square, but also its landscaping makes it a special spot, pleasant and attractive to those who, like myself, played and studied in such an urban environment. From an architectural point of view, I consider Brasília ́s Cathedral the highlight of Niemeyer ́s inspira- tion and formalist talent.

What are some things you don’t like about Brasilia?

Without a doubt, what bothers me the most about the conceptual plan of Brasilia is the exacerbated adoption of sectorization (Hotel Sector, Bank Sector, Garage Sector etc.) which is contrary to good urbanism. Even though the natural dynamic growth of the city has broken considerably, one can still feel some effects of it in daily life.

How does it feel to be a pedestrian in Brasilia?

With an exception to the “Superquadras” and their local shops, the rest of the city (“Plano Piloto”, in this case) has got a scale that favours or binds mobility to cars. It really harms, in many spaces, gatherings and personal relations that naturally occur when one walks around. In fact, Brasília lacks traditional streets and exag- gerates the so-called “vias”.

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