Many, many years ago, I was born in this wonderful city called Brasilia, the capital of Brazil. It was a plan conceived by the President Juscelino Kubitscheck, who wanted to move the country’s capital from Rio de Janeiro on the Southeast, to the Centre-West of the country. His plan was to develop that part of the country and to remove the political scenario from an already very populated region.
To do this he invited the architect Oscar Neimeyer (who is 103 years-old and counting!), and Lucio Costa, who projected the city’s lay-out.
Behind the construction of Brasília lay a monumental campaign to construct an entire city in the barren center of the country, hundreds of kilometers from any major city. The brainchild of Kubitschek, Niemeyer had as aims included stimulating the national industry, integrating the country’s distant areas, populating inhospitable regions, and bringing progress to a region where only cattle ranching had a foothold. Niemeyer and Lúcio Costa used it to test new concepts of city planning: streets without transit, buildings floating off the ground supported by columns and allowing the space underneath to be free and integrated with nature.
Growing up, I saw the project taking shape. I saw the construction workers, people who migrated from the far Northeast to work and help building the city. I saw the bulldozers moving, the big holes in the ground, and the red dust covering the air as they move the machines around.
I had a great childhood there. There were not many people living in the city – by the 1970’s the population was about 70.000 – but I had the feeling that as I was growing up, so was the city with me. We were together in this endeavor.
Brasilia is famous for its flat and dry landscape, and for the skies. There is a saying in Portuguese that goes more or less like this: “Blue as the Brasilia’s sky”. It is indeed, the most beautiful place to see the sunset. And the sunrise.