As I mentioned in my last post, I was a missionary in Brasilia. I never actually did any missionary work in the city itself (I always worked in the satelite cities), but I did go there on my day off and for meetings. And on those visits the city always impressed me. It was a grand experiment in urban planning and it looked like something out of a vintage sci-fi movie. In that light, I was excited to go back and check out Brasilia with Laura.

On Saturday morning, then, we headed out. We decided to walk, despite the expansivness of the city, and I was surprised at how close everthing actually is. We probably walked for several hours over the course of the day, but we saw a lot and got a unique look at the city. In other words, for people who like to walk, Brasilia is definitely walkable.

Anyway, first we went to the sanctuary of Sao Sebatiao. It’s a Catholic church with walls made mostly of tiny panes of blue stained glass. From there we headed over to the TV Tower and the fair at it’s base, where we ate cheese and banana pastels.

After that we passed through a mall, saw an art exhibit in the lobby of the National Theater, visited another museum and the futuristic cathedral, and then made our way down to the capital building. There, we went on a guided tour of the Brazilian senate and house chambers. Afterward, we ate at a delicious all-you-can-eat pizza buffet. With the exception of the food, all of these things were free.

As I mentioned above, we walked to all these places, and that gave us an interesting view of the city. Brasilia was entirely planned and built in the 1960s, and a lot of its architecture was designed by modernist Oscar Niemeyer. It’s all very interesting to look at. Unfortunately, however, it’s also really spread out and void of people. As a result, the city feels almost post apocalyptic. With all the striking buildings and empty spaces Laura and I started to feel like we were in a science fiction movie where humanity had been destroyed and we were the sole remaining survivors. At any moment, we expected a zombie to run by.

In other words, while Brasilia is visually intriguing, it’s feels kind of cold and uninviting. It doesn’t look especially livable (though I know that people who live there love it). Unlike most of the other cities we’ve visited in Brazil, Brasilia was also unnervingly quite and void of activity. While we went through some happening nightlife spots, there seemed to be much less social interaction going on.

I think when I came to Brasilia as a missionary I was so excited to be in a big city that it didn’t matter that that city was kind of weird. On this visit, however, I very quickly found myself wanting to get into a more architectually and social inviting environment. And luckily, that’s exactly what we did.


Written by Jim Dalrymple II

Urbanism and travel writer. Also a journalist covering the news.

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