Rarely does a single architect get the opportunity to plan and construct on such a grand scale, and we are very lucky (when so many 20th century buildings are being bulldozed due to a combination of ignorance and neglect) to have such a wide-reaching example in Brasilia.
Brasilia is a rare example of architectural design on such a large-scale. Throughout history there have been occasional opportunities for an architect to construct city-wide, but rarely have been completed if they were begun at all. One opportunity that did not come off was after the Great Fire of London in 1666 – if the finances and political will had been in the right place Christopher Wren would have remodeled London after the great fire, but it wasn’t to be, so we are left with the old medieval street layout and Wrens elegant avenues are left to the imagination. Another opportunity, which was successful, happened when reseating the capital of India to New Dehli – Edwin Lutyens created an Anglo-Indian fantasy which “still ranks as one of the most elegant urban landscapes anywhere in the world”.
On a smaller scale, modernist architecture has not fared well, usually only the buildings that house national institutions (like the National Theatre on the South Bank of the Thames) have a chance of survival, although they are often under threat of alteration. Certainly in the UK, a lack of maintenance often leads to local disapproval and ultimately destruction – the Tricorn in Portsmouth is perfect example. The alteration of modernist, particularly Brutalist architecture, is another threat – the recent plans to encase the South Bank Centre in glass and move out the skateboarders – how very 21st century! Lets remove the graffiti pit and hide all that concrete behind some glass and make it look all shiny and ‘nice’! What happened to architectural or design honesty, or is that too old-fashioned?
Have a look at these photos and see just what Modernism could be if looked after…