Not Brasilia

12.11.127:38 AM ET

Undated general view of Brasilia, designed by Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer and inaugurated in 1960. Niemeyer, the modernist architect who designed the nation's capital Brasilia celebrates his 100th birthday on Saturday. A number of events are planned to mark the milestone, only a few attended by the man himself. On Wednesday, Niemeyer was made Grand Commander of the Legion of Honour, a French award bestowed in his Copacabana studio.  AFP PHOTO/Evaristo SA (Photo credit should read EVARISTO SA/AFP/Getty Images)

Norman Foster offers a statement on the work of Oscar Niemeyer:

It is said that when the pioneering Russian cosmonaut, Yuri Gagarin visited Brasilia he likened the experience to landing on a different planet. Many people seeing Niemeyer’s city for the first time must have felt the same way. It was daring, sculptural, colourful and free – and like nothing else that had gone before. Few architects in recent history have been able to summon such a vibrant vocabulary and structure it into such a brilliantly communicative and seductive tectonic language.

The trouble is, this isn't really much a compliment. Cities are not backgrounds for the exhibition of architectural masterworks. They are places in which people must live. Half a century after Jane Jacobs published Death and Life of American Cities, it seems bizarre that there is any jolt of novelty remaining in restating such truisms. But they are resisted not because architects have not heard them before, but because they are too arrogant to heed them.