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Brasília

 

 

Brasília may be the often-forgotten capital of Brazil, but it’s also one of Latin America’s largest design and construction projects to date.

 

 

In 1960, ambition rooted in politics and economic power gave birth to the first capital city built from scratch. You won’t find cathedrals adorned with gold, rows of colorful homes outlined by cobblestone streets, airy plazas and fountains.  Brasília looks more like an Orwellian dream, a utopia for those with a penchant for conformity.  

 

 

As far back as 1823, Brazilians dreamed of building an interior capital to profit from the resources of its inland territories. In 1883, an Italian priest, Dom Bosco, dreamed that a new civilization would emerge in the central high plains of Brazil. In 1955, president Juscelino Kubitschek decreed that the new capital be carved out in the state of Goiás. The city was modeled from the “plano piloto” to look like an airplane, with the government buildings in the fuselage, the executive power in the cockpit, and housing in the wings. Kubitschek wanted Brasília to be a symbol of economic power and technological advancement. With a workforce of hundreds of thousands of peasants from the northeast under the lead of the famous architect, Oscar Niemeyer, it was erected in three years.

 

 

Brasília is where 1950s sci-fi meets the cold war; where McCarthyism seems rampant; where progress and technology reign over creative independence and self-expression. Stroll up the fuselage, which is a wide and long expanse of crab grass, lined on either side by a uniform row of rectangular, low-rise government offices.  Each is emblazoned with large gold letters signifying the building’s purpose—Ministério da Energia, Ministério da Comunicação, Ministério da Defensa Ejercita. Imagine a synchronized parade of navy blue suits with 1950s hats and thick black-rimmed glasses filing into their offices at exactly eight o´clock every morning.  The offices echo with the beeps and shuffling of mainframe computers.  An abacus sits on every flat metal desk. Styrofoam is all the rage, and at any moment a nuclear fallout drill could ensue.

 

 

The architecture is a mix of shapeless colored metal towers, concave cement dishes, exaggerated arches reaching into space, and bizarre sculptures.  At the foot of the fuselage is the infamous Catedral Metropolitana, a circle of arches curving out at the top, giving the cathedral the appearance of a giant paper crown. Along the side of the cathedral is an enormous white oval rock, which will make you want to call Roswell, New Mexico, on the phone and ask them if they’re missing a flying saucer.

 

The outskirts of the capital are filled with highly spiritual religious groups who believe the fields surrounding the city are ideal landing pads for extraterrestrials. After a day in this 1950s “Tomorrowland” you’ll believe the aliens have come and gone and left us Brasília.



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