The soaring, curvaceous concrete of Brasilia is like no other skyline in the world. And the Brazilian capital's most distinctive forms -- the stark white dome of the National Museum of the Republic, pictured above; the circular, spiked cathedral, like a crown perched upon the plaza; and the delicately beautiful Presidential Palace -- are all the work of one man: architect Oscar Niemeyer, who died in Rio de Janeiro on Dec. 5.
In its prime -- shortly after it was laid out in a burst of idealistic zeal over the 1950s and 60s -- Brasilia was the embodiment of urban modernity. But as ideas about planning have evolved, both Brasilia and Niemeyer's reputation have taken a hit.
Brasilia, writes Richard J. Williams in Foreign Policy, has "become a buzzword for the impractical, utopian ideas of the past: a white marble monument to central planning surrounded by slums." Amid the molding concrete, the favelas, and the smog-choked freeways of today's Brazilian capital, Williams asks, "is there anything worth salvaging from Niemeyer's complex legacy?"
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