In 1956, when Brasilia was conceived, cars were the transportation system of the future. “Adapter la Ville à la Voiture” (adapt the city to cars) was the reigning philosophy in those years, and as Brasilia wanted to symbolize the most avanced face of Brazil, all the city was planned around cars. Two big motorways, the Monumental Axis and the Residential Axis, crossed in the city center, and structured all the shape of the town. All the important monuments gathered along the Monumental Axis, and were designed in order to give the best image of them when seen from a car’s windowshield. Functions were strictly separated: workplaces on the Monumental Axis, residences on the Residential Axis.
Fifty years later, the city was facing a big challenge.
On one side, the city’s masterplan has become a symbol of Brazil development, and classed as a world heritage site from UNESCO. A change in the masterplan following smart growth principles (retrofitting the motorways into urban avenues, adding new buildings in the central esplanade and mixing different urban functions) would have changed too much the image of the city and made it lose its appeal.
On the other side, the transportation philosophy on which Brasilia is funded was becoming more and more dysfunctional. Long commutes from only-residential zones to only-workplaces zones were the norm, and buses were often idling all day in the city center between the morning and the evening rush hours.
Trying to solve both problems, the city has started the “integrated Brasilia” master plan. The principle is simple: while keeping the monumental axis as it is, the plan will retrofit the southern part of the residential axis, that will be equipped with metro, tramway and BRT.
After this plan:
– The Monumental Axis is no longer the main entrance to the city, being concurrenced by the Residential Axis.
– The Residential Axis is no longer simmetrical, the southern part being more infrastructured than the northern part. Tramways and BRT have also turned most of the streets of the residential axis into mixed-use streets, open to both pedestrians and vehicles, breaking one of the city’s founding principles.
– At the southern end of the Residential Axis, new districts have been built. Free from the strict rules of Brasilia’s masterplan, these districts have converted into mixed-use development and are now concurrencing the Monumental Axis.
The Integrated Brasilia Plan hasn’t changed the phisical shape of Brasilia that much, but has turned upside down the way in which the city is perceived and used.