City Journal Winter 2016

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Theodore Dalrymple
His Inhuman Elegance « Back to Story

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In the LAT Obit for Niemeyer, he is quoted as remarking that he loved to look down at the voluptuous Brazilan ladies on the strand far below his penthouse residence, and was inspired by their magnificent curves. He knew not men, but forms, alas. As a Communist he knew not humanity as a perspective on history. At least Frank Lloyd Wright had a sense of humor, remarking that his impractical Guggenheim Museum, built for a city, Manhattan, which he detested in principal as a site that diminished the human to ants under the towers of powers. And boasted that his museum would withstand the nuclear destruction of Manhattan. But, hanging pictures on its gyring walls? Who cares! Architects generally abhor artists, and prefer to make glass walls, etc....
An elegant and brief review of something of which I am totally ignorant.

"Like many architects of the twentieth century, he built for humanity; as for men, he knew them not."

Perfectly said.

" Circumspice "

Many thanks
"I wish Stanley Baldwin no ill, but it would have been much better if he had never lived." (Winston Churchill).

Likewise, had most of the "great modern" architects of 20th c. tragically died as teenagers, the world would have lost little.
"Like many architects of the twentieth century, he built for humanity; as for men, he knew them not."

That would explain what made him such a good German communist.
Construction of Brasilia was begun in the late 1950's. I first visited in 1967 followed by a second visit in 1988. To me, the entire city is very cold and impersonal. It is totally devoid of what I consider to be the warmth and conviviality of the Brazilian people I know.

Part of the reason is that Lucio Costa's wife had been killed in a car wreck at an intersection. From that experience, he laid out the city with virtually no intersections. As a result, it is virtually impossible to walk anywhere; you have to take a bus. That means there is very little opportunity to encounter your fellow citizens for common interaction on a sidewalk. That situation, to me, removes a large aspect of humanity from the city design.
All Niemeyer concepts were wrong, for he couldn't think of a Christian spiritual sphere !!
Long live the people's architecture! Long live concrete and glass! Long live leaky roofs and discolored facades! Who needs working escalators or heatable buildings?
I think his best is the Niteroi museum on multiple levels. One of the most stunning buildings integrated in a spectacular locale in tudo mundo.