Brasilia Off the Map

Brasilia Off the Map by Cyrille Weiner

Brasilia is the capital of a vast country, but it is not a city. It is the drawing of a city, a cross in the middle of the desert. An act of possessing a territory, perfectly and globally achieved from scratch by the architect Oscar Niemeyer and the urbanist Lucio Costa, under the direction of President Joscelino Kubitschek.

I walked for hours, off the map and beyond its limits into an urban space that has not yet been conceived for walkers. The public space in Brasilia is the whole territory. The ground in cities is covered with asphalt. In Brasilia, despite the sophisticated urban configuration, the red earth does not disappear.

Time is suspended. Life seems to have stopped on April 21, 1960: inauguration day of the new capital, built ex nihilo. Strange scenes of parades of workers, soldiers and officials, amid scattered brand-new futuristic buildings, like an oversized movie set. I came to Brasilia with the feeling of coming back. I left it asking myself whether Brasilia exists. It seems to. Not as a myth or a symbol of the modernist utopia, but s available open playground for all our improvisations. The real monumentality of Brasilia is its emptiness.

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