The planned trip to Rio excited me; I looked forward to a week-long Amazon cruise. The capital city of Brazil lay somewhere between the two major objects of my South American excursion. So, with little preparation and even less excitement, I scheduled four days in Brasilia, the planned city that rose phoenix-like from the grasslands of central Brazil. This UNESCO World Heritage site so impressed me that I wrote about it for the online travel blog InTheKnowTraveler, (ITKT) without even a footnote about Rio de Janeiro or the Amazon River.
I categorized my visit to Brasilia as The Serendipity of Travel, I phrase I often use when, in my frequent travels, something totally unexpected surprises and delights me. Such was the case with Oscar Niemeyer’s work of art. In my ITKT article, I labeled Brasilia oxymoronically as “unique in its uniformity.”
Most capital cities of the world grew up around a core of historic buildings with picturesque neighborhoods fingering out from their centers. Not so for Brasilia. Niemeyer designed almost the entirety of its public buildings. He did this in an architectural style known as “brutalism.” Whereas this style might aptly fit its name, say in 1960’s East Berlin, there is a magic to Brasilia’s buildings: lines softened by curves, constant sunshine setting concrete aglow, the rhythm and color of South America all coming together to honor Niemeyer.
Niemeyer, who died this past week at the age of 104, was himself an oxymoron, a rabid communist – and atheist – who designed churches that honored God in their breathtaking splendor. Witness the Metropolitan Cathedral, a teepee-like structure whose ribs of sparkling white concrete reach to the sky. It could be nothing less than a house of worship.
Like most ardent travelers, I have a bucket list. I also have a “Should’ve been on the bucket list but wasn’t” list. And yes, Brasilia is there. Thank you Oscar Niemeyer. You might’ve called yourself a brutalist communist. I call you a spirited, perhaps even playful, individualist.