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Brasília, ville fermée, environnement ouvert

Marcia Regina De Andrade Mathieu
Ignez Costa Barbosa Ferreira
Dominique Couret

Summary. Brasilia: enclosed city, open environment

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1From its inauguration in 1960 to its registration by the UNESCO in the World Heritage List in 1987, Brasilia has been the universal materialization of the project of the modern city: avant-garde and ideal. Nowadays it has become an urban concentration of 3 million inhabitants, vast and fragmented. It surprises by its sprawl, its widespread and repetitive spatial patterns, its urban networks relying mostly on automobile, its residential enclosure and the huge gap between the social classes – the poorest bearing the burden of an unequal access to centrality and development.

2Yet, at its foundation it was meant as a true public locus of urban encounter, on its building site as well as its workers' settlements. Nowadays where and how do the populations of Brasilia develop an integrated society? How could a project of an integrated city, delimited, with its own boundaries, conceived as the melting pot, turn into such a fragmented society, with a widening gap between the social classes, a widespread urbanisation and an environment far too open to individual housing initiatives? Could this urban and social shift of Brasilia, from a closed city, product of a totally utopian ideal of social integration, to an open and segregated city, be interpreted as an exemplary testimony of the primacy of economic dynamics over urban designs? Again, despite every strong political intervention, does urban development always turn into a stratified territory based on the separation and dissociation of the social classes, in a situation where income and capital are unequally accessible and where social anomy is source of anxiousness?

3From an urban environmental perspective, crossing Brazilian and French urban geographies, the authors address the crucial question of the conservation of Human Heritage represented by Brasilia's inner city and the multiple risks the agglomeration has to deal with nowadays. They explore the current knowledge on the short history of this specific urban structure and finally show how the original unsustainable urban utopia leads to a declining quality of life and a decaying urban environment for all the categories of the society. They question not only the meaning of local development but also the 21st century urban dilemma between unequal liberalism and balanced social policies. Do we have to accept as inevitable urban forms without any social ties, segregated cities against their social nature, when they are hard to sustain?

© IRD Éditions, 2006

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