A 20th-century city of pure invention, Brasllia is the realization of a seemingly impossible dream. President Juscelino Kubitschek de Oliveira ( 1956-60) was elected partly on the bas is of his highly ambitious pledge to move the capital of Brazil746 miles (1,200 km) inland, from Rio de Janeiro into the country’s empty center, before the end of his first term. This was miraculously achieved by the tens of thousands of workers who created the specially built city from an area of scrubland. The principal public buildings, which include a cathedral, are strikingly designed. Brasilia fulfilled Kubitschek’s ambition to develop the country’s interior and create a monument both to modern architecture and Brazil’s economic potential.
THE CITY’S LAYOUT
Brasilia’s unique design is referred to as the Pilot Plan. Urban planner Lucio Costa said he simply used a shape that followed the lie of the land He wanted to form a centralized, geometric plan to create an ideal city, and therefore an ideal society. The design is based on two axes: a Monumental Axis and a Residential Axis. Six wide avenues are intended to provide the grandeur of a capital city, with the Supreme Court, Congress Complex, and Presidential Palace (Planalto Palace) representing the balance of the three powers. The residential area is made up of “superblocks” — six-story apartment buildings, grouped to form neighborhood units.
In 1957, Lucio Costa and Oscar Niemeyer were announced as the winners of the competition launched to choose the urban design of Brasilia. Costa was responsible for the general design of Brasilia, but Niemeyer created the main buildings. Both were students of the modernist architect Le Corbusier, the father of functional, boxlike buildings. Costa has been criticized for not providing for public transportation, and for designing a city for 500,000 people that today houses two million residents, many living in slums. However, it is generally agreed that Niemeyer achieved his goal of creating a city with “harmony and a sense of occasion” with his powerful public buildings.
The vision of Oscar Niemeyer has become synonymous with the rise of modern Brazil. Born in 1907, Niemeyer graduated from Rio de Janeiro’s National School of Fine Arts in 1934 and collaborated with Lucio Costa and Le Corbusier on the new Ministry of Education and Health in Rio. His style became more daring as he incorporated reinforced concrete into his buildings. He is probably best known for his designs for the main public buildings in Brasilia, such as the concave and convex domes of the National Congress, the simple yet evocative cathedral and the spectacular Palace of Justice. A pioneer of modern architecture, he has won numerous prizes.
The striking yet simple form of the cathedral provides Brasilia with a recognizable identity. An illusion of space is created in the interior by the circular floor being set below ground level and therefore lower than the entrance.
This contains a huge crucifix carved from a single piece of tropical cedarwood.
This unusual, egg-shaped building is said to be a representation of the host (sacramental bread). It is connected to the cathedral by a tunnel.
Oscar Niemeyer’s design symbolizes a crown of thorns, and consists of sixteen 131-ft (40-m) high concrete columns that suggest arms reaching toward the sky.
This is decorated with stained glass made from 16 pieces of painted fiberglass. Suspended from its ceiling are three floating angels by the Brazilian sculptor Alfredo Ceschiatti.
Light gilds the row of rectangular buildings standing sentrylike along the Esplanade of the Ministries. Each one is home to a different government department. In the distance is the Congress Complex.
Palace of Justice
This low-rise, unimposing building features water cascading between its delicate white arches. Nearby is a stone sculpture of the head of Juscelino Kubitschek.
The juxtaposition of the dishes and twin towers provides the dramatic, space-age silhouette that is a symbol of the city.
In augurated in 1981, this monument was built to honor the former Brazilian president Juscelino Kubitschek, whose tomb is housed here.
A PRIESTLY VISION
In 1883, an Italian priest named Dom Bosco had a vision about the future site of Brazil’s new capital. Each year, on the last Sunday in August, a procession in Brasilia celebrates the anniversary of his dream.
1956: Kubitschek is inaugurated as president of Brazil. A competition is bunched for the design of Brasilia.
1957: Construction of the city begins, based on Lucio Costa’s Pilot Plan.
1958: The foundation stone of the cathedral is laid; the building is consecrated in 1970.
1960: Brasilia is inaugurated on April 21 and becomes the capital city of Brazil.
1987: Brasilia is designed a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.