Fine piece of writing on Brasilia by Bill Donahue in the Washington Post [via George Kelly – thanks!]. Through a few seemingly-random encounters Donahue enables the city’s inhabitants to convey the contradictions implicit and explicit within Brasilia – what Robert Hughes called “a museum of architectural ideas” and a “utopian horror”, which nonetheless elicits near-spiritual devotion; slum-like urban areas rapidly developing outside of Oscar Niemayer’s beautifully sculptural, picturesque and underused centre. Donahue neatly describes both how citizens can fervently believe their city into life, seemingly despite everything, and how those who aren’t citizens – visitors such as him – can still tap into these currents of emotion to uncover a city’s essential ‘truths’ or narratives.
“Brasilia survives, I think, because of a strange sort of hope. Its citizens still believe they can attain some shadow of transcendence in a place that is, in truth, composed of bricks and mortar, otherworldly ideas and concrete. In touring the city, I’d encountered, I realized now, a succession of believers: a priest who believed in his church; an architect who believed in his city; a man who believed in his son. Such hope is everywhere in the world — encountering it as a traveler is, really, a matter of just leaving yourself open.”
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