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Brasilia

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“In architecture it isn’t enough to just have the right building that works well. It can also be beautiful. It can also be different. It can create surprise. And surprise is the main thing in a work of art. […] I like and respect Brasília very much. It is a simple city, a rational one. I always defend the urban design of Brasília”- Oscar Niemeyer (Architect of Brasília’s Cathederal).

A charming quote, made even more interesting by this biting counterpoint from Architect and Human-Centred Urban Quality Consultant Jan Gehl:

“Brasília was the ultimate modernistic city, built on all the ideas of the modernistic manifests. It looks fantastic from the airplane. But if you are down at eye level, on your feet and going from one place to another, Brasília is a disaster. Every distance is too wide. Things are not connected. You have to trample for endless miles along completely straight paths. Nobody ever started to think about what it would be like to be out in Brasília in between all these monuments.”

Jan explains: “As far as I am concerned, the people scale is THE important scale of all of them. We have the city plan scale, the site plan scale and the people scale. And definitely the people scale, where you touch the city, and where you touch the buildings – that’s what counts for quality. […] I find it striking that the quality of the urban habitat of homo sapiens is so weakly researched compared to the habitat of mountain gorillas and bengal tigers and panda bears in China.”

At Clearleft we often talk about what happens when you design at the wrong level of zoom. Dribbble, for example, encourages you to focus in on a 400×300 pixel rectangle, so you end up with something beautiful that has no bearing on the real user experience. It’s easy to marvel at the theoretical perfection of your work but ultimately it’s not your judgement that matters. The end users – the citizens who has to live in your streets – these are the people who determine its success.

The video clip above is from Gary Hustwit’s Urbanized, which you can now watch online for just $3.99. Highly recommended.

Related posts:

  1. Dave Meslin on designing for intentional exclusion

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Vincent Fournier is a photographer of the future—both the one that’s actually happened, and the science-fiction future that we hoped would come to be. In his earlier work, the French artist plucked robots out of laboratories and staged portraits of artificial life forms like Sony’s Asimo going about their business in the human world, drinking from a water fountain or playing basketball. In his sprawling “Space Project,” Fournier—who used to visit the Paris museum of science as a child—traveled to world’s centers of space exploration, places like the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Russia and NASA’s venerable Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Fournier’s photographs make the Mars Desert Research Station in Utah look like the forbidding alien landscape it was meant to stand in for, while his shots of technicians in bubble-helmeted space suits are mined from the same visual vein as Stanley Kubricks’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. These are glimpses of Tomorrowland, the space age that never quite took off. Even his work on Brasilia—the custom-built capital of Brazil, that perpetual “country of the future”—show an obsession with classic visions of tomorrow, with humankind’s effort to bring the universe to heel. “I love machines, the ones that fly, speak, count or observe,” Fournier has written. “I’m fascinated by the magical aspect of science, which seems to reduce the complexity of the world to a few mathematical formulae.”

In his new work, Fournier is still looking to the future—to the hard lines of the man-made—but he’s moved to things that are living. Or at least, things that may live. In his “Engineered Species” project, part of his recently released book Past Forward, Fournier explores how life itself tinkers with its own design, changing DNA to make species better, faster and stronger. Fournier took pictures of taxidermy specimens—stuffed and pinned animals—and brought them to animal geneticists to find how these species were evolving in real time as the environment, thanks largely to human action, keeps changing.

The result are new engineered species like a global warming-tolerant pangolin, a rodent-like Asian mammal with a tougher keratin skin that enables it to maintain a constant body temperature, even in a hotter climate. An ibis—a long-legged wading bird—evolves longer, stronger claws that help make it more resistant to both drought and frost. A rabbit—one that stares at the viewer with expressive blue eyes—is engineered for higher intelligence thanks to neural stem cell treatment.

None of these species are real yet, and like Fournier’s earlier space-age work, they may turn out to be a vision of a future that does not come to pass. But I doubt it. We’re already on our way to engineering new life forms, to tinkering with the DNA of the species around us—and eventually ours as well. We may have no other choice—the environment is changing more rapidly than wildlife can adapt to, and the result is a wave of extinction happening faster than any this planet has witnessed for millions of years. For nature to survive, it may have to become artificial—though even Fournier, who says he loves machines, has his doubts about our ability to control these metamorphoses. “The universe is not as well ordered as our machines,” he writes. “It acts in an irrational, chaotic, violent and mysterious way, and even though there are computers that can design our forests, the control remains artificial.” Our engineering, after all, can exceed our wisdom.

Vincent Fournier’s limited edition monograph Past Forward was recently released by IDEA BOOKS.

Additionally, Fournier’s photographic work will be on display as part of the Les Rencontres d’Arles photography festival in France through September.

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When the moon appeared on the horizon some people pulled out their cameras to record the beauty. I had hoped to use these people in my image as a silhouette. I hoped to put someone on the moon.

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All it takes are two groups of people, one to gather and one to march past them. Parades took place across the globe these past two months for a variety of celebrations, from shows of military power, to tributes to organized labor, to pride for one’s country or culture. -- Lloyd Young (37 photos total)
Performers dance in the street parade at the annual Notting Hill Carnival in central London Aug. 29.. Revelers flocked to west London for one of Europe's biggest street parties, with record numbers of police on duty to prevent a repetition of riots that shook the British capital three weeks ago. Notting Hill Carnival, an annual celebration of Caribbean culture that usually draws about 1 million people for a colorful procession of musicians and performers. (Olivia Harris/Reuters)

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People observe a moment of silence during ceremonies at the World Trade Center site for the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on lower Manhattan on September 11, 2001 in New York City. New York City and the nation are commemorating the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on lower Manhattan which resulted in the deaths of 2,753 people when two hijacked planes crashed into the World Trade Center. Security has been heightened in both New York City and Washington D.C. following a terrorist threat about a car bomb.

A P-51 Mustang airplane crashes into the edge of the grandstands at the Reno Air show on Friday, Sept. 16, 2011 in Reno Nevada. The World War II-era fighter plane flown by a veteran Hollywood stunt pilot Jimmy Leeward plunged Friday into the edge of the grandstands during the popular air race creating a horrific scene strewn with smoking debris.

 September 19, 2011

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People observe a moment of silence during ceremonies at the World Trade Center site for the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on lower Manhattan on September 11, 2001 in New York City. New York City and the nation are commemorating the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on lower Manhattan which resulted in the deaths of 2,753 people when two hijacked planes crashed into the World Trade Center. Security has been heightened in both New York City and Washington D.C. following a terrorist threat about a car bomb. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images) #

 September 19, 2011

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The Tribute in Light rises over the Brooklyn Bridge and lower Manhattan, Monday, Sept. 12, 2011, in New York. A day earlier the city held a memorial at Ground Zero for the 10th anniversary of the attacks on the United States. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez) #

 September 19, 2011

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In this Monday, Sept. 12, 2011 image taken from video, a group of people tilt a burning BMW up to free Brandon Wright, on his back on the ground, who was pinned underneath after he collided with the car while riding his motorcycle on U.S. 89 in Logan, Utah. Authorities said Wright was riding his motorcycle near the Utah State University campus in Logan when the 21-year-old collided with the BMW that was pulling out of a parking lot. Tire and skid marks on the highway indicate that Wright laid the bike down and slid along the road before colliding with the car, Assistant Police Chief Jeff Curtis said. (AP Photo/Chris Garff) #

 September 19, 2011

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A visitor poses in front of a beluga swimming inside an aquarium at the Laohutan Ocean Park in Dalian, in northeast China's Liaoning province, Saturday, Sept. 17, 2011. (AP Photo/Andy Wong) #

 September 19, 2011

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A woman at the National September 11 Memorial, Sunday, Sept. 11, 2011, mourns the loss of her son who died during during attacks at the World Trade Center, Sept. 11, 2001. (AP Photo/Carolyn Cole, Pool) #

 September 19, 2011

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Robert Peraza, who lost his son Robert David Peraza in the attacks at the World Trade Center, pauses at his son's name at the North Pool of the 9/11 Memorial before the 10th anniversary ceremony at the site, Sunday Sept. 11, 2011, in New York. (AP Photo/Justin Lane, Pool) #

 September 19, 2011

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A man walks among nearly 3,000 flags set up as part of a remembrance on 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks Sunday, Sept. 11, 2011, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson) #

 September 19, 2011

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A rose is placed on an inscribed name along the North Pool of the 9/11 Memorial during the tenth anniversary ceremonies of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks at the World Trade Center site, September 11, 2011 in New York City. New York City and the nation are commemorating the tenth anniversary of the terrorist attacks which resulted in the deaths of nearly 3,000 people after two hijacked planes crashed into the World Trade Center, one into the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia and one crash landed in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin Lane-Pool/Getty Images) #

 September 19, 2011

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The Tribute in Light shines above Lower Manhattan, marking the 10th anniversary of the attacks at the World Trade Center site, Sunday, Sept. 11, 2011, in New York. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke) #

 September 19, 2011

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In this Friday, Sept. 16, 2011 photo, a P-51 Mustang airplane approaches the ground right before crashing during an air show in Reno, Nev. The vintage World War II-era fighter plane piloted by Jimmy Leeward plunged into the grandstands during the popular annual air show. (AP Photo/Garret Woodman) #

 September 19, 2011

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A P-51 Mustang airplane crashes into the edge of the grandstands at the Reno Air show on Friday, Sept. 16, 2011 in Reno Nevada. The World War II-era fighter plane flown by a veteran Hollywood stunt pilot Jimmy Leeward plunged Friday into the edge of the grandstands during the popular air race creating a horrific scene strewn with smoking debris. (AP Photo/Ward Howes) #

 September 19, 2011

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A single engine T-28 from the six-plane Trojan Horsemen Demonstration Flight Team crashes and explodes during a performance at the Thunder Over the Blue Ridge Open House and Air Show, Saturday, Sept. 17, 2011 at the 167th Airlift Wing in Martinsburg, W.Va. (AP Photo/Journal Newspaper, Ron Agnir) #

 September 19, 2011

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A firefighter places an American flag on a memorial display while preparing for 9/11 ceremonies at FDNY Ladder 20 Engine 13 on September 9, 2011 in New York City. Ladder 20 lost seven firefighters on September 11, 2001. New York City and the nation are preparing for the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on lower Manhattan, which resulted in the deaths of 2,753 people at the World Trade Center(Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images) #

 September 19, 2011

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Las Vegas firefighter Capt. Eric Littmann walks in a parade commemorating the 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, Sunday, Sept. 11, 2011, in Las Vegas. ( AP Photo/Julie Jacobson) #

 September 19, 2011

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A general view shows a crowded beer tent during the opening day of the Oktoberfest 2011 beer festival at Theresienwiese on September 17, 2011 in Munich, Germany. The world's biggest beer festival starts September 17 and runs until October 3, 2011. (Photo by Alexandra Beier/Getty Images) #

 September 19, 2011

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Floyd Mayweather Jr., left, watches as referee Joe Cortez gives Victor Ortiz Floyd a ten count after he was knocked down by Mayweather during their WBC welterweight title fight Saturday, Sept. 17, 2011, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson) #

 September 19, 2011

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The street circuit of the Formula One night race is illuminated during a light testing seen from Swissotel The Stamford at dusk on Monday, Sept. 19, 2011 in Singapore which will be the host city for the SingTel Singapore Grand Prix from Sept. 23-25. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E) #

 September 19, 2011

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Palestinian children gather near the beach in Deir Al Balah, central Gaza Strip, Thursday, Sept. 15, 2011. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue) #

 September 19, 2011

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2nd Lt. Andrew Ferrara, 23, of Torrance, Calif., with the U.S. Army's Bravo Company of the 25th Infantry Division, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Battalion 27th Infantry Regiment, based in Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, turns from the rotor wash of a landing Blackhawk helicopter during a mission for a key leader engagement at the Shigal district center Thursday, Sept. 15, 2011 in Kunar province, Afghanistan. (AP Photo/David Goldman) #

 September 19, 2011

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Air Force One, with President Barack Obama aboard, arrives at Raleigh Durham International Airport in Morrisville, N.C., Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2011, where President Obama will speak about the American Jobs Act. (AP Photo/Jim R. Bounds) #

 September 19, 2011

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Firefighters try to put out a wildfire at a national reserve in Brasilia, Brazil, Monday, Sept. 9, 2011. Drought, high temperatures and low humidity have caused wildfires at several places around Brasilia, according to officials. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres) #

 September 19, 2011

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Joseph Mwangi, 34, sits in a state of shock after discovering the charred remains of two of his children, one aged 6 the other of unknown age, at the scene of a fuel explosion in Nairobi, Kenya, Monday, Sept. 12, 2011. A leaking gasoline pipeline in Kenya's capital exploded on Monday, turning part of a slum into an inferno in which scores of people were killed and more than 100 hurt. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis) #

 September 19, 2011

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Survivors use flotsam Saturday, Sept 10, 2011, after an overcrowded ship sank in deep sea between mainland Tanzania and Pemba Island at about 1 a.m. Saturday with about 600 people onboard. The numbers involved are unclear as the ferry, M.V. Spice Islanders, is thought to have been heavily overloaded and some potential passengers refused to board when it was leaving the mainland port of Dar es Salaam, said survivor Abdullah Saied. About 230 people have been rescued and 40 bodies recovered but about 370 people are still reported missing, said Mohamed Aboud, minister for the Vice President's Office. (AP Photo/Capt Neil van Ejik Whirlwind Aviation) #

 September 19, 2011

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A German soldier lifts weights at his combat outpost in Char Darah, outisde Kunduz, Afghanistan, Saturday, Sept. 17, 2011. (AP Photo/Anja Niedringhaus) #

 September 19, 2011

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A man sets himself on fire outside a branch of Piraeus bank in the northern port city of Thessaloniki, Greece, Friday Sept. 16, 2011. It was a third attempted self-immolation by the former small business owner, who says he was ruined after taking a series of bank loans. The 56-year-old was hospitalized with non life-threatening chest burns. (AP Photo/Nontas Stlianidis) #

 September 19, 2011

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A girl runs across a flooded road as water recedes in Puri district, about 55 kilometers (34 miles) from the eastern Indian city of Bhubaneshwar, Friday, Sept. 16, 2011. Aerial food drops were suspended after five days Friday as flood waters began to recede in the Mahanadi delta in Orissa state. At least 26 people died and 12 others went missing during the devastating floods which affected people in 19 districts of the state, official sources said. (AP Photo/Biswaranjan Rout) #

 September 19, 2011

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Soyuz TMA-21 space capsule lands with Expedition 28 Commander Andrei Borisenko, and Flight Engineers Ron Garan, and Alexander Samokutyayev in a remote area outside of the town of Zhezkazgan, Kazakhstan, on Friday, Sept. 16, 2011. NASA Astronaut Garan, Russian Cosmonauts Borisenko and Samokutyaev are returning from more than five months onboard the International Space Station where they served as members of the Expedition 27 and 28 crews. (AP Photo/Sergei Ilnitsky, Pool) #

 September 19, 2011

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NASA Astronaut Ron Garan, left, Russian cosmonauts Alexander Samokutyayev, center, and Andrei Borisenko, right, are seen inside Russian Soyuz TMA-21 space capsule after its landing about 150 kilometers (94 miles) southeast of the Kazakh town of Zhezkazgan, Kazakhstan, on Friday, Sept. 16, 2011. NASA Astronaut Garan, Russian Cosmonauts Borisenko and Samokutyayev are returning from more than five months onboard the International Space Station where they served as members of the Expedition 27 and 28 crews. (AP Photo/Sergei Remezov, Pool) #

 September 19, 2011

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Nepalese women remove bricks of the damaged house to make way for pedestrians after an earthquake of magnitude 6.9 shook northeastern India on Sunday night, in Katmandu, Nepal, Monday, Sept. 19, 2011. Rescue workers used shovels and their bare hands to pull bodies from the debris of collapsed buildings Monday, as the death toll from an earthquake that hit northeast India, Nepal and Tibet rises. (AP Photo/Niranjan Shrestha) #

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