Brasília and modernity Paper

timer Asked: Apr 16th, 2019
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Reflecting on the presentation about Brailia and modernity:

Write a paper focusing on an example of a Latin American city (architecture, urban design, transportation, other approaches) the reflects something modern or new or innovative. Note whatever sources you use. Feel free to include images so I know what you are talking about.

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Brasília & Modernity The focus of this presentation is Brazil’s capital Brasília, but also “modernity” and how we understand what is modern. As you know the course thesis is that Latin America & the Caribbean are world regions that have and continue to create things of global importance: culture, martial arts, art, and ideas about the nature of political freedom. In making this argument I am arguing against the idea – which might not be said all the time but exists – that the only places that produce new and important things (ideas, technology, human rights, culture) are the United States and Western Europe. There are a number of terms people use to describe this – progress, development, advanced, etc – the one I want to focus on is “Modern.” Modern is a flexible term. A few important versions: The Modern Era (historical) – 1500-1800 Modernism – Late 19th & Early 20th Century Modern Art – Mid 19th to Mid 20th Century. We have covered a lot of this with art in the last few weeks. Modern Architecture – Early 20th Century Modern Dance – Late 19th and Early 20th Century Modernity, the self-definition of a generation about its own technological innovation, governance, and socioeconomics. To participate in modernity was to conceive of one’s society as engaging in organizational and knowledge advances that make one’s immediate predecessors appear antiquated or, at least, surpassed. The eminent Victorians thus appeared oldfashioned to a new generation of “moderns” at the beginning of the 20th century, and the motto of poets of the time was to “make it new.” Modernity & Modernism – This video is about art, but the first half (just a minute or so) covers some useful terminology. You will need to be in slide show mode to get it to run. • For this course, what is important is that these terms (modernity, modernism, etc.) is the idea that there is a movement, or a historical era that values and searches for innovation and improvement. • When joined to a Eurocentric view of world history (one that says history was moved forward by certain groups of people) ideas about modernism – or what is modernity – tend to leave out innovations made in Latin America and the Caribbean (as well as Africa, the Middle East, Asia, etc.). Of course, many in Latin America & the Caribbean consider themselves part of the Eurocentric or Western part of the story – remember that Vasconcelos saw his “cosmic race” as an extension of prior achievements including those of Europe. However, that view is not widely held in the United States – the context for our consideration. • Repeating myself here – because I believe it is important – there are different ways to think about modernity, but I will stand by the point that the impression we are given of Latin America – and the Caribbean – is that it exists in opposition to “advanced” or perhaps “modern” societies. In the collective imagination of the U.S. that means the U.S. maybe Europe, Canada, Australia, and a few other places. • I believe that when we (in the U.S. generally) think of Latin America or the Caribbean we gravitate toward vacation stuff – beaches, picturesque cities, or wild nature – the Amazon. Or, we think of poverty and, increasingly, violence, with run down cities full of squalor, disease, underdevelopment, and more lately of violent criminal gangs. For example, famous images of urban poverty refer to “favelas.” The poor neighborhoods in Brazilian cities that began as informal housing – shanties – and over time grew. Those of Rio are famous as the geography of the city have them hanging off of hills and sometimes quite close to richer areas. Gran Torre Santiago – finished 2012 Most Latin American cities have something like favelas, often the result of migration from rural areas that outruns the infrastructure of a city. But many Latin American cities also have new construction that is “modern.” Of course the contrast reflects inequality – but so do the buildings in Manhattan. These projects include wealthy neighborhoods with fancy houses and – dramatically – skyscrapers. Here are a few examples. BD Bacata – a multi-towered building, one will be 67 story tower (one part) still under construction in Bogotá in 2018. Just about the largest city in the Hemisphere (along with Rio and Mexico City) is São Paulo. Famously urban, I couldn’t find an example of one stand alone skyscraper that dominated the city. Instead I found images like this one, an entire city of huge buildings, stretching on and on. Now, moving back in time. Shortly after Brazil became a Republic (in 1889 – remember) people began to float plans to construct a new federal capital – something like Washington D.C. that would no belong to an individual state. For the first half of the 20 th century there were various plans and debate. Designing cities has a long history in the Americas – leaving out indigenous building a different and lengthy topic – the Spanish had been designing cities that reflected their ideals of how society should function since they got to this hemisphere. Below (left) is a 16 th century drawing laying out how to build these cities and (right) a 16 th map of Santiago Chile. For you urban planning architecture nerds here is the link to the article where I got these images – it is very interesting The urge continued and not just in Brazil. In 1880 Argentina made the city of Buenos Aires its federal capital (again like Washington D.C.). This meant that the province (also called Buenos Aires) needed a new capital. So they planned and built the city of La Plata. An aerial photograph shows how the streets were laid out as a grid with avenues running at an angle. This is the old Spanish grid system with – I think – an imitation of Parisian boulevards that were used to remake that city a few decades before. But in the 20th Century the Brazilian government went much further. They seized on ideas that had been circulating for decades in architectural and urban planning circles to control and improve society. As President Vargas was promoting “racial democracy” in Brazil (recognizing Capoeira) and Mexicans were presenting themselves as the “Cosmic Race” after the Revolution (and a number of muralist painters were also architects as well) other people were thinking of actual buildings. It took a few decades, but President Juscelino Kubitschek (President 1956-1961) put Oscar Niemeyer – a Brazilian architect considered a key figure in modern architecture – in charge building the new capital. Niemeyer oversaw construction of Brasilia between 1956-1960, one of the World’s first modern planned cities. There was literally nothing in this place before the project. For more see Lúcio Costa was the designer who planned the city’s layout – this is what it would look like from overhead. The city was built far away from anything. Sort of in the middle of the country – the location had been selected back in 1890. Short Video to check out: The Cathedral Congress Building Federal Supreme Court • Not only was the city planned but the architectural style was also an expression of the new, the modern called “Brutalist” architecture. Brutalist is a reference to the raw concrete used. New technology let people design and build outrageous shapes that would have been almost impossible before. The movement is often criticized – check the video: Some other notable examples of brutalist architecture Prentice Women’s Hospital - Chicago Geisel Library - California Some regional examples near us. In Albany, NY “The Egg” and Empire State Plaza. I’m from Long Island – and during my childhood the slow building of the Stony Brook University Hospital was a sort of defining event. In retrospect, two of the buildings were typical of the era. Then they added that third glass tower, I don’t even know what to call that. Back to Brasilia. Plaza of the Three Powers If I have this right – this bridge – named after Kubitschek was built over a lake that was built for the city. That’s right, first they built an artificial lake and then built a bridge over it. I believe this is as good a description of “progress” during the 20th century that you can find. In addition to the monumental architecture the city also included Super Cuadras – giant residential blocks, intended to change how people interacted within society. Places where rich and poor would live together. The architecture and planning was a form of social engineering intended to “better” society. The buildings were intended to take life off of the street – where it had been centered in Brazilian cities. With open green spaces underneath the buildings where people would interact. My understanding is all of this – the buildings and a city built to get around with in a car, not walking, sucks. That people don’t like Brasilia and it isn’t that much fun to live in. Maybe that is just anecdotal. LeFRAK City: The pictures of the superquadras reminded me of giant housing projects and complexes from the U.S. – especially LeFRAK city that you always see driving east out of NYC. Inside of these giant buildings is – green space, somewhat like in Brasilia. • … and so, maybe we can think about cities in Latin America differently. Maybe we think about “modernity” differently. Maybe not. Either way, Brasilia is a great example that Latin American nations could embrace progress, bold solutions to societal problems, and invest enormous amounts of money and energy into something that ultimately might be a terrible idea. ...
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School: Boston College



Brasilia and modernity
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Brasilia and modernity
The world has significantly developed and Latin America has not been left out. Towns
and cities have embraced modernity, following significant technological innovation. Latin
America has been at the center of organizational and knowledge advances. This accounts for the
growth Brasilia has experienced from the mid-20th century. Road infrastructure, skyscrapers and
other modernization of the transport system all account for modernity in Brasilia. This city was
inaugurated as Brazil’s capital in 1960. Since then it has experienced architectural modernism
that has seen the city grow by leaps and bounds. Moreover, Brasilia was conceptualized by Le
Corbusier, a Swiss architect. He conceptualized and planned the city and made sure that every
part ...

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Tutor went the extra mile to help me with this essay. Citations were a bit shaky but I appreciated how well he handled APA styles and how ok he was to change them even though I didnt specify. Got a B+ which is believable and acceptable.

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