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Space Brasília

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In speculative fiction, the architecture of alien species, as well as human cities in the future, will often be oddly uniform across the board, with no variations owing to different styles being in fashion at different times, local environment, or available materials. This can also apply to futuristic human cultures: it is rare to see a future city with architecture from different periods side by side, despite this being the norm in real life.

The trope is named after the city of Brasília. Normally, a city will have a whole range of architectural styles as buildings are constructed over the decades and centuries. Brasília, however, was built quickly between 1956 and 1960 in a uniform Modernist style to be the new showcase capital for Brazil, and has been criticized for its bland and anti-septic appearance. Other real-world cities built like this include Washington, D.C., Canberra and, even earlier, Saint Petersburg and Constantinople, all of which got the same critiques as Brasília did, back when their prevailing architecture was dated but not yet antique.

A special case of Planet of Hats: it would usually be too much work to give an alien species or future humans more than one architectural style, and giving an entire race one uniform look makes it easier to tell them apart at a glance. Real-world cities depicted in the future aren't immune to this trope (outside of well-known landmarks, of course), as well as cities in the past like Rome or Athens. The Shining City is usually described like this.

When it is not City Noir, your typical City in a Bottle setting will usually be this. In which case it will be the hero's job to escape. Space Brasília will often be more Crapsaccharine, filled with inhuman Bizarrchitecture, laced with Futuristic Superhighways, and covered with creepy lawns. Our heroes will long to return to the Arcadia of good old planet Earth, which is never a Stepford Suburbia.

Named for the tendency of such settings to be filmed in set-piece futuristic towns like Brasília or Astana, Kazakhstan.

Compare Advanced Ancient Acropolis, City of Gold, Crystal Spires and Togas, and Zeerust. Contrast Used Future and The Constant.

Examples :

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    Comic Books 
  • Kryptonian architecture in the Superman comics. Also in different incarnations of the Bottle City of Kandor.
    • Also for quite a while during The Noughties, the city of Metropolis, since Luthor managed to acquire part of Brainiac's technology and apply it in the town's restoration.
  • While a Jack Kirby futurescape is immediately recognizable as such, he was certainly capable of varying it. Certainly nobody would mistake a picture of Supertown for one of Armaghetto.
  • Initially averted in Judge Dredd. The very first story had a criminal holed up in the Empire State Building, which is now dwarfed by city blocks, the World Trade Centre is destroyed in a later story and the Statue of Liberty was still standing, but was later destroyed. Gets played a bit more straight after The Apocalypse War, where half the city gets nuked, presumably destroying most of the older buildings.
  • Wonder Woman Vol 1: The Saturnian architecture as seen on the inhabited moon where the emperor lives and where Diana and Steve lead the Slave Revolt that dooms the Saturnian invasion plans is distinctly modernist.

    Fan Works 
  • In Plan 7 of 9 from Outer Space, Annika-709 describes the arcology of Greater Germany.
    "It was designed to be a world where everyone was equal — free of the chains of history, social hierarchy, and bourgeois affectation. Therefore after twenty years in a concrete habitat bereft of ornamentation or personality its residents passed a unanimous resolution to commit mass suicide."
  • The Trope Namer gets a mention in Rocketship Voyager (ostensibly a 1950's sci-fi story set in the far future of the year 2020) when Brazilian-Venerian B'Elanna Torres is unimpressed by the bland uniformity of the Shining City of Brasilia when she finally gets a chance to go there.

  • Averted to a ridiculous extent in Blade Runner. The mixture of architectural styles is pretty much realistic, apart from the notable lack of air-conditioning. But the streets filled with uniformly '50s style cars while futuristic spinners zoom overhead ?
  • Minority Report also averts this by being pretty effective at depicting a world with a variety of architecture of different ages and styles. This is actually a plot point at the very beginning.
  • The Planet Vulcan, quite logically, in the Star Trek (2009) reboot.
  • Partial example: most of the worlds in the Star Wars universe, in addition to being Single Biome Planets and/or Planet of Hats. Partially averted with the City Planet Coruscant, where different parts of the planet are dominated by different buildings: the predominance of Metropolis-esque art deco scyscrapers there can be explained away by the Galactic government's capacity to rebuild entire areas from the ground up. Moreover, some of the alien species seem to be adapted to their various forms of architecture, that is when there is not only one settlement to be found.
    • In the Expanded Universe, this is more thoroughly averted: while the upper levels are rather uniform Crystal Spires and Togas, the lower levels reflect older methods and styles of building- because after Coruscant ran out of room, they could only build straight up. This makes Coruscant an odd vertical aversion.
  • Averted in Metropolis, where Rotwang's laboratory is in a very old house still standing among and dwarfed by the futuristic skyscrapers.
  • The City in a Bottle in Ćon Flux was almost filmed in Brasília, but due to infrastructure problems they decided for Berlin and Potsdam, Germany.
  • The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit give a single look at each races major cities and towns, including Hobbiton, Rivendell, Edoras, Dwarrodelf, Minas Tirith, Erebor and so-on. A "hidden" one is Numenor, an ancient line of men whose style is seen in Weathertop, Cirith Ungol, Amon Hen and other more ancient ruins. True to the trope however they all have a uniform style as if they were all built in one go. An aversion is Barad-dur: as a reflection of how long it took to build, the tower has different segments built in slightly different ways, to reflect that a bunch of orcs had "died off" and construction was restarted later.

  • Played with in the Culture novels by Iain M. Banks, where the architecture of different civilizations are suggested as being representative of their cultures in different ways. The neo-imperial Azadian cities in The Player of Games are described as sprawling masses of construction, decay, and reconstitution, as though the entire civilization were a massive bacterial colony grown too large for its Petri dish, while most socially and technologically mature societies, of which form the communistic Culture represents an ideal, tend to manufacture habitats as concerted projects to meet specific well-understood needs, so that Culture ships and space habitats favour a simplified, flexible architecture that nevertheless contains immense microscopic diversity in the way individual species, subcultures, and populations customize the minimalist designs of their habitats to suit their living preferences and aesthetic interestsnote .
  • Lois McMaster Bujold's Vorkosigan Saga:
    • Brothers in Arms describes future London as averting this, being a weird mixture of architectural styles. Creepily, when the style of "old London" is described, it is a late 20th century style, implying that all of the older architecture London is currently known for no longer exists. Given that the same book mentioned submarine rides on the lake Los Angeles it's safe to assume that Earth survived a lot, and not all of it was pretty.
    • The planet Barrayar is described in similar fashion. The capital of Vorbarr Sultana is a mishmash of old and new architecture, while newer cities like Hassadar are pure Space Brasília.
  • Averted in Alastair Reynolds' Revelation Space Series, particularly by the shantytown-like cities on Sky's Edge. The "historical" buildings were actually often built from cargo containers and prefabricated materials and the newer ones are more natural. Most town squares in the oldest cities of Sky's Edge have a triangular shape, since they were built around the triangular atmospheric shuttles that brought the colonists to the planet's surface from the orbiting Generation Ship. Also, in the same series, Chasm City on the planet Yellowstone has enough variability in its architectural history, even though it's a typical high-tech metropolis.
  • Time Scout averts this. The architecture on the time terminal is outlandishly diverse, with everything tending to look like the art and architecture of the nearest tourist gate.
  • Both justified and partly averted in the Dragonriders of Pern series. Holds are all carved into rock rather than built, so inevitably they are somewhat similar in style and have little variation internally. However, by the time of the first books many Holds have expanded, with more traditional houses being built outdoors. This is an important plot point, since it turns out there's a very good reason people hadn't built unprotected buildings out of wood before.
  • Worldwar sidesteps this. In Colonization, humans finally visit the Race's homeworld and describe the cities. Because the Race has had a stable civilization for 100,000 years and have built their cities over that period, and are very meticulous about preservation, they have many buildings from all eras of their civilization, still in active use. However, because they have been largely technologically stagnant for their entire known history, the variation in architecture in their cities is much less than you might expect a human city of such age to have - after all, millennia old buildings are still fully suited to modern use.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Doctor Who
    • Zoe comes from the space-age 21st century future. The only time we see her home city, it fits this trope (and, indeed, the original script suggested Brasília as a model).
    • In "Frontier in Space", an establishing shot of the World Government headquarters is portrayed via a Stock Footage of the National Congress building in Brasília. Location shots were filmed amid the bland concrete architecture of the Hayward Gallery.
  • Babylon 5:
    • There are indications this is the case with Minbari cities in Babylon 5. The ones we see are very uniformly the Crystal Spires style, and Delenn once compared Minbari cities, which don't change for a thousand years at a time, to her going away for a week and coming back to find major parts of the station reconfigured in looks and function.
    • Earthdome, the seat of government for the Earth Alliance, gives off this vibe.

    Video Games 
  • Cleverly justified and averted in Civilization: Beyond Earth. At first, of course, each colony has a very limited architectural style because all of the buildings are prefabricated and designed for pure utility. As your colony outgrows mere survival and adopts a definitive ethos (its Affinity), their architecture changes to reflect the new values, but not all at once. At the lower levels of Affinity, only a small portion of each city will follow the new look, which spreads organically to the rest of the city as you gain levels.
  • Played with in Halo involving Forerunner construction. At first glance, everything they built looks to be made out of silver metal alloys, making heavy use of cantilevered construction, triangular structures topped off with spires, precise angles, and straight lines. However, each Forerunner Rate did have their own subtle touches:
    • Builder structures were very large and elaborate, showcasing their enormous power and wealth. Most surfaces were very finely detailed and textured, and included copious amounts of blue lighting.
    • Warrior-Servant structures were similar in several ways, but had a much more subdued, brutalist look to them. No unnecessary carvings or detailing, unless it was something glorifying the Forerunners' Mantle of Responsibility. Red and orange lighting played more of a role, as well. Tellingly, their buildings incorporate a lot of spaces designed to be easily defensible choke-points and killing boxes, befitting the fact that they are soldiers by trade.
    • Miner technology is noted (admittedly by a Builder) to be entirely practical and ugly as sin to boot. Their job was to rip planets and stars apart for raw materials; why make anything look pretty? All you needed were working grapplers, cutters, churners, constraint fields, molecular furnaces, and other objects for ripping chunks off a planet and processing them.
    • Lifeworkers were apparently even more austere in their building practices, so much so that the Librarian considered the Didact's house (built in the rather severe Warrior-Servant style) to be extremely luxurious compared to what she was used to before marrying him.
  • Invoked and justified In Mass Effect, due to the series' love of classic sci-fi tropes.
    • When you visit Ilos, the last planet in Mass Effect, you are able to see a ruined Prothean tower off in the distance. It seems to be identical in style to the skyscrapers on Feros, a distant planet where the environmental conditions seemed quite different. Justified in Mass Effect 3, which reveals that the Protheans were in fact a highly aggressive imperialistic monoculture more than advanced enough to build in that style anywhere they wanted. It makes perfect sense for them to have enforced a single style of architecture as a monolithic demonstration of their power.
    • In Mass Effect 2, Illium is similarly full of giant skyscrapers all of similar design - Actually an Invoked Trope, a literal Space Brasília meant to demonstrate Asari superiority. In Mass Effect 3 it's revealed to be a carbon copy of Thessia, and the Asari are revealed to be the heirs of the Protheans in every way, including their arrogance - they're just a lot more passive-aggressive about their plans for creating a galactic monoculture.
    • Averted with the two Earth cities you visit in 3: Vancouver and London. Each have more obvious Shining City skyscrapers mixed in with older buildings that exist in real life.
  • Mirror's Edge and Catalyst, of course, with an image of its City of Glass providing the page image.
  • Can happen in the Rush Hour expansion to SimCity 4: you can choose from the four styles of building that will show up in your city; these are by default set to cycle every five years. This can lead to a fair number of very large neighborhoods looking very, very similar. However, you can change things up: in one direction, you can have the architectural styles change faster (e.g. once a year), which creates smaller single-style neighborhoods (which is actually mildly realistic for an expanding city). On the other hand, you can also slow the cycle or even ban up to three styles outright (if you like the Brasília effect).
  • It's possible to avert this or play this straight in Spore, since you can choose similar buildings for every colony, or have each planet with its own unique style.
  • Shattrath City in World of Warcraft is likely a literal example. It is the capital city of the Draenei on Draenor. It was likely planned and constructed with the purpose of being a capital in a very short amount of time. This is actually true of most of the capital cities in-game. Stormwind and Orgrimmar, although both designed as capitals play with it: they both contain areas that feature the aesthetics of other cultures but in an obviously planned out fashion. Notably averted however by Dalaran, which features a bewildering mismatch of elvish and human architecture some of which is only truly explainable by assuming it is held up by magic: all of it just randomly scattered about, there isn't a straight street in the entire place. This speaks to both the age of the magical city and it's unusual cultural diversity. Non-capital in-game cities also tend to avert this trope: The Crossroads features a collection of both Orc huts and Tauren tents for example.
  • Justified in XCOM 2. The ADVENT Administration has rebuilt many of Earth's major cities into shining metropolises full of sleek, geometric designs, gleaming glass, and immaculate white material, regardless of the architecture of the original settlement. This is both to break down the national divisions of "the Old World" and make humanity identify more with the ADVENT regime, and to try to lure humans into the city centers from the more squalid slums and run-down suburbs around them.


    Western Animation