tropical tectonic-precedent1 University of Brasilia


In the Central Sciences Institute at University of Brasilia(popularly known as the “Big Worm” on account of its elongated form, 1960) for instance, Niemeyer experimented for the first time with a “mega structure”, discounting the Ibirapuera Park marquee, of course, which is merely a covered over space. The 720-meter-long parallel wings each measuring about 30 meter across are separated by an open, central garden area running the full length of the building with laboratories located beneath in the basement. Together they form a great bow pointing toward lake Paranoa. On the concave side of the bow was to have been the Great Square, which the architect designed the same year. The design’s most interesting feature is its urban character. It could almost be several buildings encompassed within the same envelope but topologically independent. The departments open directly yet separately onto the linear circulation area between the two parallel wings. The central gardens, the pergolas in each wing and the hard surface of the circulation area which is covered but open-air run parallel to the internal spaces modulating the transition from fully open to entirely closed. The space dividing off the wings and two great entrance hallways are points of passage but at the same time lively places for fraternizing, intensely occupied throughout the day (another variation on the ballroom with transparencies cutting transversely across the building). Its striking identity enchants daily users and visitors alike. The “Big Worm” is the hallmark of the entire campus for the university community, and I have personally witnessed the fascination it exerts on foreigners visiting the University for International Conferences. The Utopia of academic integration has been granted an ideal locus here. It is a shame the same morphological principles have not been extended to the remainder of the University of Brasilia campus – even so the best in the country in terms of layout.

architectural association school of architecture diploma unit 16 ©2012