Topic: Architecture / Travel
The other day I got around to reading a long article on the Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer that appeared in the May 15 New York Times Magazine (my mom takes care of her novakids, and sends me the good ones). Niemeyer, who is still working at 97, was the head architect for Brasilia, the capital planned by fellow Brazilian Lucio Costa, and the only realized Modernist utopian city.
Politically, Modernist architecture was a complicated mess. The ambition to execute new ideas through new forms and technologies led admirable architects seeking opportunities down some questionable roads. Philip Johnson helped organize an American Fascist Party and attended Hitler's rallies in Nuremberg. Le Corbusier joined the Vichy government and was a proponent of something like Technocracy throughout his career. Mies left Germany for Chicago at the onset of war, but made every effort to avoid politics on either side.
Niemeyer, on the other hand, was an avowed Communist during the most politically dangerous times. During the 60s the US government backed a coup that overthrew Brazil's government. Niemeyer's office and studio were destroyed, he faced arrest and interrogation, and spent more than a decade in exile. Brasilia failed, ultimately, as political change, overpopulation, and suburban ghettoization took hold, but it survives. The architect says,
You may not like Brasilia, but you can't say you have seen anything like it--you maybe saw something better, but not the same. I prefer Rio, even with the robberies. What can you do? It's the capitalist world. But people who live in Brasilia, to my suprise, don't want to leave it. Brasilia works. There are problems, but it works. And from my perspective, the ultimate task of the architect is to dream. Otherwise nothing happens.
Niemeyer's Modernism also attempts a sympathetic relationship to with the environment: "We absolutely need to look at the sky and feel how insignificant we are--the offspring of nature."
In other news, a remix of Gwen Stefani's "Hollaback Girl" is getting play on Power 92.3, the Chicago hip-hop station ("#1 in the Streets"). I don't know what to think about that. But what thenovakids dig about 92.3 is that it promotes a more positive hip-hop culture than 107.5 and expecially Hot97 in NYC, where people are always getting in fights outside, shooting at eachother, or mocking Tsunami victims on air. But 92.3's djs promote discussions on serious issues affecting the community, like AIDS (black women account for 72% of new HIV/AIDS cases among women), poverty, inequality, single motherhood, etc. So, whether you're making buildings, creating cities, or playing music, remember you can do it conscientiously.
? 2005 TAKOTRON Department of Education, Propaganda Division