« Youth Week | Main | Immigration world turned upside down »

Brasília Days

Floss silk trees 

It rained for four days w/o stop. Sometimes it rained little less and sometimes it poured really hard. I walked to the grocery store on Sunday while it rained only enough to make you feel a little damp, but I don’t think it stopped raining completely for a full hour during those four days.  Today it rained too, but it didn’t rain all day.   In fact, the sun came out strongly.  While I was eating lunch, outside but under a roof I saw it rain a little, rain a lot, become very sunny and then rain again.  In other words, today was more like the “usual” summer weather here.  This time of the year in Brasília, it usually rains every day but not all day. “Todos os dias, mas não o dia todo,” is the phrase I learned in Portuguese.

The four days before today were rainier than usual, but the weeks before were dryer.  It rained only a couple times a week, which is strange.   It was sunny and it got a little hot during the middle of the day.  But the temperatures in Brasília are nearly perfect.  It gets down to around 65 at the coldest and never more than 90, w/o much humidity.

Street in Brasilia 

Brasília is pleasant, although the original design is not conducive to things like walking, biking or generally being a human not sitting in a car.   It improves as you get away from the original plan, but the parts of the city are disconnected.  Riding my bike to work, even during the dry season, takes significant commitment.  The city represents what some intellectuals of the 1950s and 1960s thought the future would look like.  It is purposely car dependent and unfriendly to pedestrians and bikes.  There have been some improvements, but it is hard to fix the core of the city because of various protective rules.  Lago Sul where I live is better than the planned city and there is a nice bike lane along the main road, but it tends to end where cars merge and it is dangerous at these points.   In general the places where you can more or less ride safely are separated by nearly impassible stretches.  

When I ride to work, I use some sidewalks, where there are sidewalks.  After that, I have to cross a bridge on a “sidewalk” about three feet wide, then ride on the grass, pass as quickly as I can under an overpass, then get off the bike and run up a grassy bank.  I finally get to the end of a road that leads to the Embassy.   The way home is a little easier.  I take the back road to one of the main highways at a point that features one of Brasília’s few stop lights.  When the light turns red, I run across the street – RUN across the street before the traffic catches up with me.  If you are not quick you will be dead.  On the other side of the big road, I ride through a series of parking lots until I come again to my bridge and the way home.

The sad thing is that it could have been such a great city.  With this marvelous climate and mostly flat topography, Brasília would be the perfect place for sidewalk cafes, bike trails and tree lined boulevards. Brasília is still a nice place in spite of the plan.  It could be fairly easily improved with a few pedestrian crossings and sidewalks and trails.  

My pictures show some of the pleasant little places on my walk to the grocery store.  As I wrote, Lago Sul is nicer than the center city, but it is still designed such that there are lots of dead end streets.   I think the trees with the spikes on the trunk are floss silk trees.

My pictures show some of the pleasant little places on my walk to the grocery store.As I wrote, Lago Sul is nicer than the center city, but it is still designed such that there are lots of dead end streets.I think the trees with the spikes on the trunk are floss silk trees.

Hosting by Yahoo!

Comments

The reason Brasilia is not a great city is that it was designed by people who believed in zoning. In great cities, shops, museums, government buildings, cafes, residential buildings, factories and parks are all jumbled up together.

Zoning is death to a city.

You have probably read the famous essay "A City is Not a Tree" by Christopher Alexander. If not, there are several copies on the web.

Post a comment

(If you haven't left a comment here before, you may need to be approved by the site owner before your comment will appear. Until then, it won't appear on the entry. Thanks for waiting.)