How do the Brazilians see their capital

Brasilia - capital in nowhere

For the design of the building, he hired the up-and-coming Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer, whom he knew and trusted from his days as mayor of the regional capital Belo Horizonte. The international tender for the planning was unsurprisingly won by his teacher, the urban planner Lúcio Costa, a pioneer of modern architecture in Brazil.

The basic idea: a simple cross

Costa's idea for a capital city out of nowhere was as simple as it was ingenious: He drew a cross on a map and made it the basis of his "Plano Piloto", his floor plan. The core city of Brasilia is still called that today.

State buildings and monuments are lined up along a longitudinal axis of the cross, residential areas and business districts along the transverse axis. At the intersection of the cross is the heart of the capital Brasilia: a bus station.

Architect Oscar Niemeyer created a unique architecture

The central bus station is 700 meters long and is reminiscent of a multi-storey motorway junction with a supermarket parking lot on the top floor. But the view is monumental: behind the visitor there are skyscrapers, in which the headquarters of the most important companies in the country are located.

To the east, the view opens up to the end of the longitudinal axis, a six-lane road interrupted by a green belt - which is rather brown in the dry season. At its edges are 18 uniform pane houses, Brazil’s federal ministries. The axis ends at "Platz der Drei Gewalten", the masterpiece of the star architect Niemeyer, who died in December 2012.

Meant are the presidential palace "Palácio do Planalto", the Supreme Court and the National Congress. Together they form the shape of an equilateral triangle. The shapes of the buildings were revolutionary at the time: "Oscar Niemeyer used reinforced concrete and its plastic deformability like nobody before him," explains Frederico de Holanda, Professor of Architecture at the University of Brasilia.

Niemeyer created a "symphony of forms", as he himself called it. He formed pillars in the shape of a sail and cup-shaped domes. In his memoirs Niemeyer writes: "The right angle has never attracted me, not the straight line, hard, inflexible, created by man. I was fascinated by the curve, free and sensual, the curve that I find in the mountains of my country in the winding course of its rivers, the waves of the sea, in the body of a beautiful woman. "

From above, Brasilia looks like an airplane

The second axis of the cross, the transverse axis, is also the main traffic artery. From the central bus station, it makes a slight curve to the south and north. From the air it therefore looks like the wings of an airplane and the longitudinal axis like its cockpit and fuselage. That is why Brazilians have always compared the shape of their capital with that of an airplane.

"In the time between the drawing of the original plan and its implementation, the planner Lúcio Costa realized that the distance between the north and south wings would be too great," says architecture professor Holanda. That's why he bent his wings.

In them, Costa created a widely ramified road system. Because he saw the car as a means of transport in modern times. To this day, pedestrians have not found it easy to cross Brasilia's multi-lane streets. To the east of the wings and cockpit is an artificial lake 40 square kilometers in size.

The superblocks - luxury version of German prefabricated buildings

Costa's goal was wide areas and clear shapes. "The sky is the sea of ​​Brasilia," he once said. He was a supporter of the French modernist pioneer Le Corbusier, for whom a city had to be functional above all else.

How this can be achieved is described by Le Corbusier in his "Athens Charter" from 1933: by separating the areas of work, transport, recreation and living. A large part of the residential areas are therefore located in the wings of the "airplane" separately from the work sectors: the superblocks, comparable to a luxury version of German prefabricated buildings.

Their addresses consist of a logical but very complicated combination of numbers and numbers. Locals love logic - strangers regularly despair. An example: SQS 708 H 44 is building 44 in block H (H 44) of the super square in the south zone (SQS) at height 700 of the longitudinal axis and 8 of the south wing (708).

The Brasilienses, as the people of Brasilia call themselves, like to live in the superblocks, says architecture professor Frederico da Holanda: "It's very quiet, although we're in the center here. You can even hear the birds. That's because it is There is only one access road and therefore no through traffic. In addition to the residential buildings, there are only two facilities: a kindergarten and a primary school. "

Poor people cannot afford the core city

Costa and Niemeyer wanted to create a perfect, modern city. They believed that society would adapt to the city design. But they hadn't thought of the enormous growth and social differences when they planned it.

The capital was designed for 600,000 people, today there are almost 2.8 million inhabitants. "From an ideological point of view, Brasilia should be a democratic city," said Frederico de Holanda. "Instead, it promoted social segregation."

Actually, rich and poor should have lived side by side. Large houses and apartments were planned. "The apartments all had elevators and underground parking lots. But that made them expensive, which poorer people couldn't afford. For them, it was the only place outside of the pilot plan."

Bus drivers and secretaries, craftsmen and housemaids established settlements outside the city center. Over the decades, 29 satellite cities grew, some larger than the pilot plan itself.

"People spend half their lives on the bus"

In the heart of Brasilia, the central bus station, the rush is high in the late afternoon. Crowds line up to get on the buses that go to the suburbs. Some are up to 50 kilometers away.

The number 0.570 goes to Taguatinga. The satellite city is 20 kilometers outside of the pilot plan. The journey can take hours, however, because the driveways are completely blocked, like every working day. "Half of all jobs are within the pilot plan," says architecture professor Holanda. "But 90 percent of the residents live outside."

Tens of thousands of people drive to the center in the morning and back again in the evening. "People spend half their lives on the bus." Taguatinga alone has 220,000 inhabitants, as many as Krefeld. "At first only poor families lived here. As the city developed, it also attracted more and more middle-class people," says Frederico de Holanda.

Augusto Ferreira de Souza came to Brasilia from the provinces at the age of 19 to find happiness. That was 1978. "Emotionally it was of course stressful. I was very young, all alone in a strange place, with no relatives. I was unskilled and had absolutely no financial means to live in the Plano Piloto." But there were vacancies everywhere.

Augusto went into the military, raised a family and bought a house in Vincente Pires on the outskirts of Taguatinga. Today the area has become a good neighborhood and real estate prices are high. Augusto has now retired from the military and works as a security advisor.

"If I hadn't left my home country, I would work in the field today, with no perspective and without a tooth in my mouth." He owes a lot to Brasilia and is now feeling very well: "I get around a lot in Brazil. Compared to other cities, we have a fantastic infrastructure here."

More than 30 murders per 100,000 inhabitants

Augusto is only concerned with crime. According to the United Nations, Brasilia is one of the cities with the greatest social inequality. The next satellite town begins behind Taguatinga: Ceilândia. One of the largest poor neighborhoods in South America is located on its western edge.

Nobody knows how many people live in the favela complex. Estimates go from 80,000 to 150,000 people. The wastewater mostly runs from the exposed stone houses and wooden huts onto the red-brown earth road. There are no sewers, no garbage disposal and only a few paved roads.

The crime rate is high and the number of police officers low. The western edge of Ceilândia is considered to be Brazil's most dangerous area and the reason why the capital with its federal district ranks high in every area in the Brazilian crime statistics.

Brasilia leads the murder statistics even before the dangerous metropolises of Rio de Janeiro or São Paulo. For every 100,000 inhabitants in the capital district, there are over 30 murders per year. In Germany this value is 0.8.