Brazilian Architects Don Oscar Niemeyer and Lúcio Costa Masks in Protest of Foreign-Built Masterplan

Oscar Niemeyer may be gone, but his spirit is certainly not forgotten. Last week, in protest of the Brasília city government’s $4.5 million, 50-year contract with Singapore’s Jurong Consultants to build a new urban masterplan, architects donned masks bearing the likeness of the late modernist, as well as that of Lúcio Costa, the fellow architect whose urban planning, alongside Niemeyer’s architecture, shaped Brasília’s modern identity.

Brazilian architects don Niemeyer and Costa masks to protest the government’s Singaporean masterplan. Danilo Verpa/Folhapress

Chanting “Niemeyer, yes! Brasília by Singapore, no!” during the 50th Annual Institute of Architects of Brazil (IAB) Awards in Rio de Janeiro, a crowd of architects and urban planners voiced their opposition to the government’s choice of a foreign builder to alter Niemeyer and Costa’s vision for the city. While Brasília is not without its share of urban problems (in his loving memoriam to Niemeyer, Paul Goldberger was still frank on his opinions of the capital, describing the difficulty in imagining “a place less attuned to what we now consider the key elements of a workable city”), outsourcing its redevelopment is “a crime against the country,” according to IAB president Sergio Magalhaes.

The irony here is that Brasília’s development in the ’50s was one of its earliest exercises in democracy, a shedding of the country’s colonial identity and forging of its own. With no official competition nor consultation with the public, the government signed onto the “Brasília 2060″ project in October after governor Agnelo Queiroz paid a visit to Singapore, as ArchDaily reports. Jurong Consultants, whose “extensive experience in zoning projects” and “impressive portfolio of 1700 projects around the world” was lauded by Brazil’s Secretary of Strategic Affairs Newton Lins, is currently in the research process. The contract allows them 20 months to prepare.

[Folha de S. Paulo via ArchDaily. Special hat-tip to Google Translate]

— Janelle Zara