Building Brasilia: From Idea to Reality

"What is it like to live in someone else's idea?" asks Bart Simpson in his documentary about Brasilia. 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.  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 political life in the capital, 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 (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 and the reality of Brasilia). 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 in the fall and group travel in the spring semester, the SSIR cohort will collaborate on a series of group projects (such as films, photo essays, exhibits, research papers, etc.). These projects may then be presented to the university community at the A&S Symposium and at undergraduate conferences

Sample Course Readings

João Almino, Free City

Rafael and Ricardo Birmann, Paranoazinho: City-Making Beyond Brasilia

James Holston, The Modernist City: An Anthropological Critique of Brasilia

Mary Karasch, Before Brasilia: Frontier Life in Central Brazil 

Vicente del Rio and William Siembieda, Beyond Brasilia: Contemporary Urbanism in Brazil

Bart Simpson, Brasilia: Life after Design