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The Desire Paths of Brasilia


The capital of Brazil, Brasilia is a planned city with parks and open spaces  designed at the height of automotive thinking in the late 1950s.

The city was laid out by Lucio Costa and the buildings by famed and still-living centenarian architect Oscar Niemeyer. Many of the buildings are iconic and beautiful in their modern form, but the highways of the city horrificly cut off key public places. Discovering Urbanism provides a great analysis of the city’s equivalence to Washington’s National Mall in showing the “desire paths” of those pedestrians who do venture into this green space.

The analysis “reveals a complex network of activity very different from the plan.” The exercise says much about how planners and designers should consider where people want to go perhaps more than where they themselves want people to go.

It also raises an interesting question about Brasilia and other planned cities: despite the historic nature of this planned city, should modifications be made, such as removing the clover leafs? Or can compromises be reached. For instance, could the integrity of the design be preserved by closing down the clover leafs and on-ramps to cars and making them into people-oriented park features?

Discovering Urbanism

12 Responses

  1. […] Proposed new plan. Photo: Discover Urbanism Source: City Parks Blog […]

  2. Hi there!
    I’m from Brasilia and just love this place! Very convenient to live in a planed city I would say!
    There are far more considerations about what it became, but I guess, an important one, is that the city reached it’s inhabitans number prediction at least 10 years before that what they expected.
    Come to visit and enjoy it!

  3. Hi.
    Brasilia is very beautiful city. But politics….

  4. Hi;
    nice post…though invisible.
    Read mine on:

    all the best,

  5. Hello! Sorry, I no speak inglish.

    Sou brasileiro (I’m brasilian) e conheço Brasília! A cidade é bonita apenas em fotos. Vendo de perto suas construções e sua arquitetura, ela nada impressiona!

    O lugar é feio, sem arborização (como pode ser visto nas fotos que você postou aqui: não existem uma árvore sequer, ou seja, sem sombras), no meio do nada, muito quente e seco. Ah, e é infestada de ladrões, principalmente nos palácios! hehe

    Mais uma vez, perdoem-me por não falar em inglês.

  6. love it!

  7. Brazil is a very beautiful country – Irene Suwarno

  8. have never been to brazil or Brazilia… so, have nothing exact to say. i know this is a country with very rich culture and traditions. i hope to visit it one day.

  9. Dear Ana,
    The politics come from the States, they aren’t from Brasilia. You guys sent them here. Think about it next year.

  10. Great post!
    One aspect that is often overlooked by architects is the ideology of Niemeyer’s buildings.
    He is a raging communist, and all his designs are very monummental, in a way to picture the BIG state that communists work to build. But the acommodations for people are very unconfortable (small rooms, small chairs, lots of underground spaces, dependant on ar-conditioning and artificial lighting) – as to inform the citizens that they are small, insignificant in relation to the state.

  11. […] Dieser Blogeintrag zeigt uns zwei Fotos der Stadt Brasilia. Einmal sieht man, wie sich die Architekten und Gründerväter vorgestellt haben, wie sich die Bürger in der Stadt bewegen sollen und das andere Foto zeigt, wie die Bürger selber entscheiden, wo sie langgehen. Man muss hierzu anmerken, dass die Gründerväter die Stadt komplett für den Autoverkehr auslegten (und das im Jahr 1960! Damals hatten selbst viele Deutsche noch kein Auto, geschweige denn die ärmeren Brasilianer). […]

  12. [English translation of Snaga´s post:]
    Hello! Sorry, I don´t speak English.

    I’m Brazilian and I know Brasília! The city is barely pretty even in pictures. Seeing its constructions and architecture close up, it´s not very impressive!

    It´s an ugly place, without greenery (as can be seen in the pictures you posted here: there´s not a single tree, in other words, no shade), in the middle of nowhere, very hot and dry. Oh, and it´s infested with thieves, especially in the palaces! Haha

    Again, sorry for not speaking English.

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