A vision of a city born of that initial gesture which anyone would make when pointing to a given place, or taking possession of it: the drawing of two axes crossing each other at right angles, in the sign of the Cross. (Lucio Costa, “Plano Piloto,” Modulo, 18, Rio de Janeiro, June 1960)
Thus began Lucio Costa’s poetic, though nebulous, competition entry for the city of Brasilia. The Cross, with its spiritual weight, was quickly translated into a bus station and tangled roadway interchange between the Monumental Axis of governmental buildings and the artery of commercial, hotel, and residential superblocks. Brasilia was born with the car central to its conception, and the result is a City of the Future that is decidedly anti-urban. Twenty Kilometers from the north edge of Brasilia lies Sobradinho. Also planned by Costa, but as a settlement rather than a city, Sobradiho had a primary rasion d’etre – to house the workers who built the city.
Between Brasilia and Sobradinho lies a 16 million square meters estate known as “Fazenda Paranoazinho”, where 30,000 middle class homesteaders—and commercial strips serving that population—have made their homes on top of irregular settlements lacking legal tenure. There are also expanses of open land filled with mango trees, two meandering rivers, and a dynamic topography. UPSA, a company founded by Rafael Birmann, is devloping this site into a city for 150 thousand inhabitants. However, Paranoazinho is not being conceived of as an isolated entity, but as a new regional urban center, a heterogeneous residential, commercial, and cultural hub between the homogenous urbanities of Brasilia and Sobradinho. In addition, Paranoazinho’s development will be transit-oriented, prioritizing pedestrian, bicycle, and public transit over the automobile. Finally, the new city will be anchored by a diversity of public spaces, the largest being a linear park that takes advantage of the river and the rich ecology it supports. Two of Paranoazinho’s public centers, a neighbourhood park and an urban plaza, will bookend a gently curving 800m artery that will be the city’s commercial and cultural hub. As planned by UPSA with Gehl Architects, this Destination Street will be humanly-scaled, pedestrian-oriented, and programatically diverse. In short, everything Brasilia’s monumental axis is not. It will also be the first part of Paranoazinho to be developed—a place to precede the city. The Destination Street will be both an anchor for Paranoazinho’s future population and an attraction for the region’s current population.
It will also be the site of investigation and design for this studio. Students will work with the general scale outlines of the existing master plan to produce architectural visions for what the Destination Street could be. Students will work from outside in, first to jointly propose a cohesive but unique identity of the street itself, then individually to develop the architecture. Each student will take one of the 100x100m blocks that lines the street and envison specific proposals of both form and program. Students will also consider their proposals relative to their neighbors to create a cohesive yet heterogeneous urban core.
During Travel week, the studio will go to both Sao Paulo and Brasilia. While in Brazil, students will present their initial work to a panel that includes those working on the project, as well as prominent figures from the local architectural and development communities. We will visit the site of the future city of Paranoazinho just outside Brasilia. And of course, we will visit examples of the formal inventiveness of Brazilian modernism and witness the consequences of the automobile-oriented urbanism that accompanied it.