Is Islamabad a better city than Chandigarh

New Capitals in New Democracies: Washington, DC, and Brasília and Legacy of Presidents and Plans

Power and Architecture pp 147-191 | Cite as

  • Michael Minkenberg
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As newly established “political capitals”, Washington DC and Brasília, like Ottawa and Canberra, represent an approximation of the type of urban design largely oriented towards the role of “ruling machines” (Rapoport). Washington DC and Brasília are also united by the regime context a presidential democracy with a strong executive and a strict separation of powers. Accordingly, the comparison of these two cities underscores that the democratic qualities inherent in the construction process competed from the outset with the extraordinary role of a strong executive power. Furthermore, in both cases, there are hardly any elements with strong democratic symbolism to be found, either in urban design or in public architecture. In both cities, non-democratic forms predominate: recourse to the architecture of the Roman Empire and the European Baroque in the American era, anticipation of an egalitarian future that was never realized and that in fact should belong to the executive and bureaucracy and temporarily belong to the dictatorship, in the Brazilian case. What is striking in both cities is the deliberately intended monumental axial spatial arrangement in combination with neo or rudimentary classical ideas in Washington, with the stylistic features of classical modernism in Brasíla.


Axiality Neoclassicism Baroque Classical Modern Presidential Democracy Monumental axes
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© Springer Fachmedien Wiesbaden GmbH, part of Springer Nature 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1. Faculty of Cultural StudiesEuropean University ViadrinaFrankfurt (Oder) Germany