Brutal Blueprints

By Daniels, Anthony | New Criterion, October 2011 | Go to article overview

Brutal Blueprints


Daniels, Anthony, New Criterion


When I was about ten years old, I used to design cities. It was very easy, and I was surprised that everyone before me had made such a hash of it. I could conclude only that the world had hitherto been populated by fools. At the very center of the city was the parliament building, which was like St. Peter's but on a bigger and grander scale. Round it ran an eight-lane circular road, from which radiated, symmetrically, six large avenues. How the deputies to the parliament were supposed to reach it--dodge between the traffic, I suppose--was not a question with which I concerned myself. I was designing cities and buildings, not human convenience. Along the avenues were situated the institutions that I then considered essential for cities: the natural history museum, the art gallery, the royal palace. Everything was on a grand scale, and no mess of the kind created by commercial or other inessential establishments was permitted or planned for.

Brasilia was being built while I designed my cities, though in a different architectural vocabulary: one of reinforced concrete rather than marbled neoclassical facades. From the point of view of urban design and planning, however, it was not much of an advance over mine, but, unlike my designs, it was put into practice.

The first thing to say about Brasilia is that it is an astonishing achievement or feat, and this is so whether you think it good or bad or somewhere in between the two. Where nothing but a remote, hot, and scrubby plain existed just over half a century ago, there now stands a functioning city of over three million people. This is enough to excite wonderment.

What perhaps is even more astonishing is that Brasilia was up and running within less than four years of the first foundation being laid. The dream of moving the capital from the coast to the interior was almost as old as Brazil itself, and, indeed, such a move had long been a constitutional requirement, if only a dead-letter one. The idea was both economic and strategic: the move would simultaneously develop the interior and protect the country from foreign occupation.

It was President Juscelino Kubitschek de Oliveira, a Parisian-trained former urologist, who finally ordered Brasilia's construction. According to the story, a man asked Kubitschek at a pre-election meeting whether, if elected, he would comply with the constitutional requirement that the capital be moved, and he said that he would. Whether for reasons of probity not universal among politicians, or for more pragmatic reasons, Kubitschek kept to his undertaking, but made it a condition of doing so that the new capital be completed within his presidential mandate. As with many, perhaps most, or even all grand schemes, the economic cost was not taken into account: Kubitschek was, in effect, Brazil's Peter the Great, but without the cruelty or indifference to human life. Unfortunately, he was also without the taste.

This difference, no doubt, had more to do with the artistic Zeitgeist titan with the individual qualities of the two men. Kubitschek has a mausoleum in Brasilia. His body is preserved in a stone sarcophagus in a dimly lit rotunda, complete with a museum of memorabilia, including his white-tic evening dress and foreign decorations. The whole thing is oddly Soviet for a country as seemingly unsovietizable as Brazil; it is like a hybrid of Lenin's tomb and the "proofs of love" museum in Bucharest, devoted to the gifts that Nicolae and Elena Ceaucescu received from around the world, such as carved coconut shell cups or bowls from their fervent admirers in Samoa.

In the mausoleum is a photograph of Belo Horizonte, where Kubitschek had been mayor in 1940. It was clearly a very pleasant place, architecturally speaking, a European city with tree-lined boulevards along which it would be pleasant to spend a day going from cafe to cafe. Everything was on a human scale, but, in a sense, it was undistinguished, because no architect had thought to build with a view to making Belo Horizonte completely different from anywhere else. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Brutal Blueprints
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.