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* S01         *
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*         E09 *
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* OBSERVATION *
* ON WEATHER  *
* IN BRASÍLIA *
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* BY          *
* Federica    *
* Buzzi       *
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Beginning the description of a city with an account of its climate seems like a tired literary trope or a British postcard mannerism. “I hope you are better employed than in gaping after weather”; even Keats deprecated himself after a lengthy description of his weather-feelings. [1]

My excuse for resorting to meteorological commentary is to convey the human and sensual experience of an otherwise abstract city. When I visited Brasília the weather was portentous: 30-something degrees Celsius, implacably sunny, still, desiccated, cloudless. I got a sunburn on the short taxi ride from the airport to the hotel. I look back at the pictures I took there: classic views of the city’s otherworldly architecture. The crisp outlines of the buildings are neither the result of a high definition camera nor of my photographic skills but of the bright and brittle climate. Under these atmospheric conditions everything seems to appear neat, sharp, and clean – like a car at the dealership.

The weather in Brasília is an intense bodily experience, one that produces an overwhelming visual impression of stasis and sterility. Inaugurated in 1960 at the peak of highway fever, its streets are constantly rumbling with the noise of car traffic, but this sensory fact goes almost unnoticed today. The city rises in the middle of the Brazilian highlands next to a huge and oddly shaped artificial lake, whose stagnation itself synesthetically suggests silence. Brasília’s modernism emphasizes the disregard for context avowed by its planner, Lucio Costa, who refused to visit the site prior to construction to avoid compromising his vision. With its symbolic location in central Brazil, Brasília is a Potemkin capital. Atmospheric conditions, sonic and climatic, were not allowed to intrude in the grandiosity of the design.

I am reminded of the sentence used by John Cage to describe his longtime collaboration with Merce Cunningham, “It's less like an object and more like the weather. Because in an object, you can tell where the boundaries are. But in the weather, it’s impossible to say when something begins or ends." [2] Brasília, however, is “more like an object and less like the weather” – all boundaries, even the weather. Perhaps it is the architecture’s total indifference to weather that has made weather into its defining experience for me.
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[1] Sidney Colvin, ed., Letters of John Keats to his Family and Friends (London: Macmillan and Co., 1891), 320.

[2] Walker Art Center, “Chance Conversations: An Interview with Merce Cunningham and John Cage” (1981).
 
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