Brasilia, the duality of a planned city  

Brasilia is a city between love and hate. There’s no conversation about Brasilia without people grimacing, pulling a face or reserving their comments. I was always intrigued because most Brazilians don’t like Brasilia, but most of them never visited the city. And as a curious person, I decided to go and see it with my own eyes to understand what happens to the capital of Brazil. After spending four days in Brasília, I have known a little about the planned city.

Starting at the upside part. Just going to Brasilia will make your trip an unforgettable experience. This is a unique city. You can hardly compare it to another city that you ever visited. The Brazilian capital is a true piece of art. Thanks to its architecture and its urbanism were declared a World Heritage Site by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

The architecture

Once you arrive you will notice the grandeur of the buildings and the sense of freedom they offer. Also, notice the large open spaces and ventilated areas. For example, the airport has no doors or facade. The city was planned by urban planner Lucio Costa and buildings were designed by architect Oscar Niemeyer. Moreover, it has works of Alfredo Ceschiattti, Dante Croce, Marianne Peretti, Athos Bulcão among others, scattered in every corner of the pilot plan.

Brasilia attracts you in every street, every building, and every park. The architecture, landscaping, and art mingle with them, making it a wonder worthy spectacle.

I’m used to with giant, chaotic and full of skyscrapers cities, here you hardly feel the pressure of those kinds of cities. Instead, you feel lost and floating in it. It’s hard to find a city with so much space. Even inside the buildings, you feel that sense of immensity. Out of them, the wide avenues and expressways will give you the feeling of being a North American suburb.

A tip: Don’t be fooled by the perspective. The buildings seem to be very close to you but r they really aren’t and you may have to walk a lot to get there.

The nature

Honestly, I never expected that Brasilia was such a green city. It is difficult to find representative images of the city about its green areas, especially when every piece of concrete is a work of art. But Brasilia also surprised by the broad nature reserves, parks, wooded areas and natural landscapes giving to the city a harmony and a wonderful mood. The options are diverse, from hiking trails, water sports, natural pools, waterfalls or even a picnic in the park.

The weather

When you see those open buildings and some even without façade, you begin to understand that the weather in Brasilia is one of the best in Brazil (when you live in an area of climatic instability as Porto Alegre, my case, any weather seems ideal).

The dry weather of Brasilia is certainly the best I’ve ever seen. With an average temperature of 69,8 º F, is never cold nor too hot (still, don’t forget to take a jacket, it can be chilly at night). However, in August, the humidity can reach 15 %. So you will see air humidifier throughout malls, restaurants, and buildings in general.

I can’t let pass the sky of Brasilia. Four days maybe just too little time to get a general idea, but Brasilia seems to have the perfect sky. Almost always it’s a beautiful sunny day, and wherever you are it looks like you can touch it. Always blue and clean, big, bright and wide. It is quite encouraging. Surely, it could be wrong, I believe it has bad days of rain, but for me, it was enough to love the city.

A very expensive museum

The investment that Brasilia makes in culture is huge. Wherever you go you’ill find an open art exhibition. Most buildings are open to visitors and some of them have guided tours.

On the other hand, this great open-air museum isn’t cheap to visit.

Starting with public transport is scarce and insufficient. The city was planned for cars, not for pedestrians. Therefore, people are forced to have one and even two cars (just imagine the traffic in the rush hour). Also has a lack of traffic lights, crossways or over crossings. The subway, which interconnects satellite towns with the pilot plan, doesn’t reach the whole city. If you go to Brasília, unfortunately, my recommendation is to go by car. It’s the only way to know most places in a short time. I love walking through the cities, but in this particular case, would not recommend. The distances are too big and you won’t enjoy anything. You can walk 30 minutes without the landscape changing at all, due to the perspective of the city.

The cost of your trip will rise due to the prices of food. Surely you can find cheap restaurants, but you´ll lose a lot of time looking for one.

The Pilot plan and satellite towns

The urban design of Brasilia is known as the Pilot plan. It has a plane or cross shape (one end in each cardinal point). With a monumental axis, where the esplanade of ministries is, and two wings where the commercial and residential blocks are located. The residential blocks are rectangular and tall buildings that are interspersed by commercial streets with low buildings; the plan was that people wouldn’t need to go too far for shopping.

In Brasilia, you´ll feel like having a déjà vu constantly because the city has the same format everywhere. Maybe you feel like you’ve gone through this court or by such street a thousand times during the day. Keep an eye to not get lost.

Around the pilot plan, was created the satellite cities. Where most of the people live. They are considered by its residents as part of Brasilia, but they are out and away from the pilot plan. Actually, it is a very confusing situation for the tourists. Until you get there, you won’t understand what the pilot plan is and what are the satellite towns, which together form the Federal District of Brasília (if I got it right). Therefore, before arriving, be sure to know what part you will be staying, because depending on it, you’ll have to start thinking about taking taxis or renting a car.

Growing up in a planned city.

Brasilia is the proof that we are, in part, the result of our environment. And I thank the Brasilienses that helped me to understand how it is to grow in Brasília. It’s like growing up in a parallel reality.

Like everything  that is planned, part of a logical basis, and that is the queen in all aspects of the city. Also, here they use abbreviations more than the whole country. The city is divided by regions or blocks depending on their geographic location (north, south, east or west). Thus, the addresses are very different from what you have seen. The blocks are numbered in ascending order from the central region to the extreme. An address can be CLSW 300 (Comércio Local Sudoeste in Portuguese). I know it sounds complex, but once you get to the city and understand the logic of it, is very easy to localize yourself.

People who grew up in Brasilia usually get lost in other cities; they could feel suffocated in closed and crowded spaces. It can also be strange, at first, to be in jammed streets full of Skyscrapers that barely allow seeing the sun.

In Brasilia, the market is different from what you have seen. You won’t find a little market or a shop anywhere, much less a street vendor (at least not during the weekends). The whole market is concentrated at specific points. If you are one of those who are hungry all the time, like me, carry water and food in your bag. When hunger attacks in the middle of your ride, believe me, it can take a long time finding a place to buy something to eat.

There is no such a thing like the Bohemians or traditional neighborhoods. It has a few bars and clubs and they are scattered in different areas. Taking account that the metro runs until 23:30, you can infer that partying in Brasília need a little more planning than you would in any other city in Brazil.

The contrast

Besides being recognized by architectural and urban beauty, Brasília is also recognized for being a city full of contrasts. Not really different from Brazil and Latin America in general. The periphery from the tourist a reality of social inequality and poverty.

When I arrived I was curious about the fact that there are no beggars or people asking for money on the streets, especially during the weekends. Of course, the public transport is almost non-existent during those days; the distances are huge to walk, so the population that doesn’t have a car is out-of-town.

Maybe Brasilia is a good choice for going by bike since it is a flat city with wide streets, however, there is no bike rentals system as in other cities of Brazil, and the cycle track plan is just beginning. I believe that in a city that made for cars the culture of green transportation is still immature; maybe Brasília surprises us in the near future.

Personally, I really liked Brasilia, is a shock to your concepts and ways of living in the city. Also, I met a charming town in the state of Goiás called Pirenópolis (read about that in the post what to visit in Brasília here), but even  just for getting to know a city outside of reality I believe that you have to visit Brasília on your trip to Brazil.

Finally, don’t miss the places you can’t miss in Brazilia, read more here.

Cristian Figueroa

Versión en Español

Versão em Português


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