"I had the impression I had landed on another planet," said Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, recounting a visit to Brasília, the Brazilian capital designed and planned by Oscar Niemeyer and Lúcio Costa. It's a sentiment that anyone could share seeing images of the protests that seized Brasília, Rio, and São Paulo last night—the largest protests to hit Brazil in 20 years. Just consider the stunning Vine below.
Business Insider's Joe Weisenthal explains some of the financial underpinnings of last night's unrest. What is amazing about the images that have transfixed Weisenthal and everybody else is the sheer size of the protests—and the public space that accommodates them.
After Niemeyer's death at age 104 last December, ARCHITECT contributor Carolina A. Miranda wrote an appreciation of the architect that considered his communist design philosophy and how it guided the creation of the monumental capital city of Brasília. The revolutionary context is always one that Costa and Niemeyer had in mind as they were designing the futuristic city. (In fact, Niemeyer's outspoken political and aesthetic philosophy led him into a self-imposed exile in 1967 following the right-wing military coup d’état in 1964, as Miranda recounts.)
"He remained an unreconstructed communist in the end, even as his designs appeared to be everything but," Miranda wrote in January. "His coffin may have been flanked by floral arrangements from Raul and Fidel Castro, but his flamboyant buildings were created in the service of power: sprawling residences for the Brazilian elite, yacht clubs and theaters, the United Nations building (done in collaboration with Le Corbusier and others), and too many government ministries to begin to name."
Miranda further notes that Brasília's "broad boulevards and austere architecture ended up working just as well for the right-wing military dictatorship of the late 1960s and ’70s as it had for the idealistic Kubitschek." Today the city appears to be facilitating demonstrators dissatisfied with crime, corruption, and the economy.