Saturday, June 28, 2008

Weird capital cities
In the U.S., state capital tend to be in smallish cities like Harrisburg and Lansing. Well, that ain't nothing compared to the capitals of the Myanmar and Brazil. The power-hungry military junta that rules Myanmar has moved the country's capital from Yangoon, which is near the coast, to a place that didn't exist until the junta created it: Naypyidaw.

People in nearby villages didn't catch on that the city was being built until Chinese engineers showed up in shops in nearby villages. The New York Times reports that the city is arranged like the Yellow Pages: all the hotels are on one street, all the restaurants are on another street, etc. The city's streets are extraordinarily wide and are devoid of pedestrians because — guess what? — only government bureaucrats and military men live there.
Meanwhile, Benjamin Schwartz reviews Oscar Niemeyer: Curves of Irreverence, a book about the architect responsible for Brasilia, Brazil. The review appears in The Atlantic Monthly. The book's author is Stylianne Philippou.
"To be sure, Philippou, a British architect and architectural historian, indulges in some academic gobbledygook (that marker of hip academese, “the Other,” makes its appearance far too often), but in authoritatively assessing Niemeyer’s work and its place in architectural and Brazilian cultural history, she has marshaled such diverse subjects as 18th-century colonial Portuguese architecture, bossa nova, the topography and cultural geography of Copacabana Beach, and the design-selection process for the UN headquarters. The book is also a marvel of presentation. Philippou fluidly explicates her narrative and arguments with detailed site diagrams and maps; drawings, plans, and elevations; photographic comparisons of buildings historically linked to Niemeyer’s; and her own lavish, precise photography of Niemeyer’s work, including both general views and details."
According to the review, Niemeyer never visited the site because he didn't want "reality to impinge on the purity of the original design." Wow.

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