Exploring Brazil’s Dreamy Modernist Utopia
Brasilia is the sleek Oscar Niemeyer-built city to visit
Sarah Ben Romdane
“I always wanted to travel to Brasilia. The idea of a ‘political center’ in Brazil intrigued me enough… on top of the added desire of seeing Oscar Niemeyer’s beautiful architecture.” This is how and why 22-year-old Brazilian photographer visited the capital of her home country to capture the city’s modernist architecture and sleek angular buildings.
Melanie visited Brasilia during a tumultuous time for the city. It was a couple of days before the national day of independence and rehearsals for the citywide parade were underway. Not to mention ex-president Dilma Roussef was impeached during her visit. “The patriotism and the excitement I saw made me more curious about how the local youth feels about the government and the country, because whilst Brasilia is beautiful – it’s also the epicenter of the notoriously corrupt elite”.
Oscar Niemeyer is the Brazilian architect who built Brasilia—in collaboration with urban planner Lucio Costa—in the 1950’s as the ideal city. Oscar Niemeyer hoped that the structure of the city, and the buildings, would reflect a new egalitarian, rational and anti-capitalist society.
“Critics have often labeled Brasilia as being ‘the moment where the modernist project simply failed’ and to an extent I can see where these critiques are coming from”, says Melanie before listing several sociological design flaws such as a lack of sidewalks, no institutionalized plans for culture and limited space for housing. “Despite the stunning architecture, the city still gives me dystopian feels.”
Brazil is notorious for it’s ultra-saturated, technicolour landscape – so Melanie’s decision to go fully grey-scale was totally intentional. “I did it in post-processing,” she says, “I like how the grey tone of the series makes the images look timeless, almost like sketches or plans for a utopia”.