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Building Brasilia: From Idea to Reality

While many of us reside and live in places that somehow define us and make us feel in place and at home, it is not often that we take the time to ask why the place that we call home is the way it is, nor what effect it has on us as individual cultural entities. Imagine, then, living in a city whose design is premised on the creation of the best environment possible for a community to thrive.

“What is it like to live in someone else’s idea?” asks Bart Simpson in his documentary about Brasilia. This community will take that question further and explore the genesis, trajectory, and realization of the idea of Brasilia—the utopic City of the Future that would become Brazil’s capital.

Inside the Classroom

Students will explore and analyze the historical, political, geographical, environmental, and artistic processes that brought forth the idea of building Brazil’s new capital city, through its completion. Based on a variety of texts, from Brazilian constitutional articles that mandate the city’s construction to official project proposal submissions, from cultural and architectural critiques of its urban spaces to contemporary fiction, we will discuss and analyze said processes in context and in dialogue with other similar projects in Brazil, as well as the human stories that make up Brasilia’s population 60 years after its inauguration.

Outside the Classroom

Through a visit to Brasilia (winter or spring break) students will experience first-hand the result of all the processes we study in the classroom, and live—albeit briefly—in the city (i.e. the idea). It is this experience that will allow students to examine the theory and the reality of Brasilia, allowing them to explore their individual interests as they enter a dialogue between the idea(s) of the city and the city itself as they experience it. 

During the fall semester, students will have the option of taking a C-LAC component in Portuguese (a .25-unit basic language mini-course) as a way to learn some Portuguese before our on-site experience.

Research and Capstone Experience

Based on our collective academic experiences and group travel in the fall semester, the SSIR cohort will collaborate on a series of group projects (such as films, photo essays, exhibits, research papers, etc.) comparing Brasilia to its sister cities around the globe, including Washington, DC. These projects may then be presented to the university community.

About LAIS 397

LAIS 397 has no prerequisites, does not require language proficiency or knowledge, and can count towards major or minor requirements in Latin American, Latino, and Iberian Studies.

Course Fast Facts

Dr. Dixon Abreu

Fall Course:
LAIS 397: Building Brasilia: From Idea to Reality (1 unit)

Spring Course:
IDST 290: Building Brasilia seminar (.5 unit)

Group Travel:
Brasilia, Brazil (Winter Break)

Year(s) Offered: