Neighbourhood Units in Brazilian New Towns: Foreign idea and local urban life
Neighbourhood units and Brazilian new towns were an instrument of national development in line with the governmental nation-building discourse and planning agenda. Urbanisation was thought to be a path to modernisation and innovative urban settings were to establish new urban practices and change social behaviour. But could neighbourhood units really mean new living patterns? Was the neighbourhood unit straightforwardly accepted as a new urban condition? Did it meet passive compliance or strong opposition? Drawing upon the Americanisation of Brazilian society, this paper explores the transfer, interpretation and appropriation of the neighbourhood unit in Brazil through the analysis of the original layouts and present realities of neighbourhood units in the cities of Goiânia (1933-36), Angélica (1954), Brasília (1957), Rurópolis (1972) and Palmas (1988). Contradictions and conflicts are exposed between the planners’ visions and the appropriation and use of the urban forms - in short, mismatches between how they were imagined and how they were lived. Due to physical inadequacy and cultural incompatibility, neighbourhood units were either considerably transformed, or rejected and replaced by more traditional, conventional urban configurations, for a foreign-planning idea is only truly incorporated when it makes sense in the cultural realm that has adopted it.
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