Just back from an amazing twenty days in Brazil with my studio at the Berlage.
I have to say that contrary to popular belief 'Brasilia' is quiet a pleasant city and for what it was designed quiet successful too. If one remembers the main intention of this major undertaking besides a symbolic act to moving the capital of the country to it's centre (or rather to the hinterland) , it was suppose to become a catalyst to the growth of this area and in a mere 50 odd years the area of the federal district has grown from a negligible population to over 2 million people.
We (ten of us) spend the first ten days of our trip to Brazil in the capital city of Brasilia doing a workshop at the University of Brasilia (UnB) there with some students and faculty of the UnB and Planners/Architects from the various Government bodies.(The next post will be links to online photo albums. So here I shall try not to crowd it with many images)
Though a lot of the conventional criticism towards the overall plan - its belief in zoning and that everyone will own an automobile - is well grounded, there seems to have been also an over looking of some of the truly innovative inventions of Brasilia, for eg. the 'Super Quadras'.
Above image from within a Super Quadra
The Super Quadras or what we can translate to as the Super Block - is the basic unit of the Residential axis of the city. It is basically made up of two elements the 'Super Quadra' and the 'Inter Quadra'. The Super Qudra is roughly a square plot 300m x 300m where 10-11 housing blocks (of about 6 floors each) is placed in varying configurations on a park like landscape. The landscape in between becomes a key binder of the blocks at the same time providing enough distance between these otherwise dense blocks. Along either end of the Super Quadra runs the Inter Quadra ( or lets say all the community functions - Schools, Clubs, Chruchs, Cinemas and even small retail shops). Through the Inter Quadra the Super Quadras relate to each other forming a sort of linear city. As one would expect there is a kind of monotony while you drive along this axis but because of the different ways in which these Inter Quadras have been appropriated in the last 50 years it is possible to differentiate them (that's once you become slightly familiar with them).
However, the reason I speak about these Super Quadras is because in a long time this has been the most positive housing typology I have seen anywhere. Probably they are not dense enough for most of our cities today but I guess it's a very interesting reference to how mass housing could incorporate ideas of Landscape (and probably in that sense Sustainability - don't kill me on this!!), community living and sense of 'Urban-ness'. I have to say I am a big fan of the Super Quadras.
Moving on from Brasilia we spend then next ten days travelling through some of the other important cities (in terms of History, Architecture and Culture) of this beautiful country - Salvador, Rio deJaneiro and SaoPaulo.