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The Informal Architecture of Brasilia: An Analysis of the Contemporary Urban Role of the Satellite Settlements

Part 2 Dissertation 2006
Annalisa Spencer
University of Liverpool | UK
Informal settlements are a fundamental part of Latin American society. This is evident in all major Brazilian cities where significant unplanned growth has occurred, expanding out from historic cores. Brasilia is unique as it was formally planned form the start. Therefore it offers a particularly stark example showing how this phenomenon of informal development is unavoidable and intrinsic to Latin America. The rapid and unplanned growth of the peripheral settlements in Brasilia is now changing the surrounding environment, resulting in the remapping of the distinctive shape of the Plano Piloto and the larger Federal District. Avoiding the standard critique of the modernist agenda, this text intends to focus on the positive development of the present day capital. Brasilia is demonstrated as a city in a state of progression and evolution rather than decline, drawing on supporting theories regarding the re-appropriation of formal designated spaces and ‘the user’ in the city. Brasilia’s development will be analysed here in the light of a postcolonial situation. Research related to postcolonial discourse can be used to gain a more comprehensive understanding of Brazilian issues of identity and nationality in relation to the built environment. Placing Brasilia within the context of CIAM doctrine sets up this situation upon which to base the ensuing analysis. This dissertation proposes that Brasilia offers a perfect case study of a Latin American city, proving that the original conditions of trying to impose homogeneity were unavoidable due to the heterogeneous nature of Brazilian cultural history.

Annalisa Spencer

Annalisa’s dissertation advances an innovative analysis of Brazil’s capital
city, Brasilia, focusing not on the master plan designed by Lucio Costa and
Oscar Niemeyer but on the informal settlements that have developed
spontaneously around its core. She links architectural studies with
contemporary debates in other disciplinary areas such as cultural theory and
postcolonial discourse. Thus, Annalisa demonstrates that, rather than having a
negative effect, informal settlements have played a key role in the
consolidation and current vitality of Brasilia. Informal settlements have not
only had a positive architectural effect, but have been fundamental in
Brasilia’s cultural, social, political development.

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