308 Sul, the Model Superblock

Discover the history and trivial facts about this superblock, built as prototype for Brasilia's other apartment blocks and offering a new way of living in a city.

By Instituto dos Arquitetos do Brasil - Departamento Distrito Federal

Vista panoramica área a partir 308 Sul até o Eixo Monumental (2021) by Lainha LoiolaInstituto dos Arquitetos do Brasil - Departamento Distrito Federal

A new way of dwelling

The superblock was a concept adopted by Lúcio Costa in his project to build Brasilia. The idea marked a new way of living in a city. 

Caminhos e área verde ao lado de um dos blocos da 308 Sul (2021) by Lainha LoiolaInstituto dos Arquitetos do Brasil - Departamento Distrito Federal

It's no accident that the word superquadra only started to appear in Portuguese dictionaries after Brasilia was built. Some even claim that Lúcio Costa's superblock solution is Brasilia's greatest contribution to global urbanism. 

Vista área dos blocos residenciais da 308 Sul (2021) by Lainha LoiolaInstituto dos Arquitetos do Brasil - Departamento Distrito Federal

Neighborhood Units

The superblock is part of a neighborhood unit, a concept dating from the 1920s and reworked by Lúcio for Brasilia. Each neighborhood unit consists of four superblocks, forming small neighborhoods with their own shops, schools, church, and movie theater.

Vista área do espelho d'água na frente do bloco F da 308 Sul (2021) by Lainha LoiolaInstituto dos Arquitetos do Brasil - Departamento Distrito Federal

In order to convince civil servants to move from Rio de Janeiro to the new capital—and to have somewhere to house them when they arrived—a number of superblocks were built in Brasilia's Asa Sul district even before the city was inaugurated. One of those new superblocks was 308 Sul, which was built by the Banco do Brasil between 1958 and 1961 for its employees.

Blocos residenciais da 308 Sul (2021) by Lainha LoiolaInstituto dos Arquitetos do Brasil - Departamento Distrito Federal

308 Sul was planned as a model superblock, a prototype for all the other superblocks that would be built in the city.  However, this block is the only one to have landscaping by Roberto Burle Marx, the famous landscape architect who worked with Lúcio Costa on the Brasilia urban project. The nine residential buildings were designed by the architects Marcelo Campello, Sérgio Rocha, José Ricardo Abreu, and Luiz Acioli.

Entrada de blocos na 308 Sul (2021) by Lainha LoiolaInstituto dos Arquitetos do Brasil - Departamento Distrito Federal

Human scale

Brasilia is made up of four scales: the monumental (its axes), the gregarious (its civic buildings), the bucolic (its open spaces), and the residential. Each scale corresponds to certain functions in the daily lives and routines of the city's residents. In the words of Lúcio Costa:

Through the innovative idea of the superblock—with its uniform template of six stories providing a sense of urban calm, its first story open and accessible to all thanks to the widespread use of pilotis, and its generous green spaces—the residential scale opened up a new way of city dwelling, unique to Brasilia and completely different from other Brazilian cities. (Lúcio Costa, Brasilia Revisited 1985–87).

Passagem para trânsito de pedestres entre os blocos (2021) by Lainha LoiolaInstituto dos Arquitetos do Brasil - Departamento Distrito Federal

Natural shield

Having a maximum of six stories, the low buildings are always surrounded by dense afforestation. This greenery helps shelter the block's interior areas, creating a quiet space that is shielded from the surrounding urban landscape.

Pilotis e área externa de um dos blocos da 308 Sul (2021) by Lainha LoiolaInstituto dos Arquitetos do Brasil - Departamento Distrito Federal

Both the afforested areas and the pilotis (ground-level columns) are key features of the superblocks and of Brasilia itself. In the superblocks, only the pilotis touch the ground, with the first floor being completely open and the apartments themselves being built from the second story upwards. This open first floor is essential for integrating the blocks as it allows the area to function as a public space, where everyone can move around freely without any walls blocking their path.

Azulejos em parede do terréo em bloco residencial da 308 Sul (2021) by Lainha LoiolaInstituto dos Arquitetos do Brasil - Departamento Distrito Federal

Modern tiled panels are often found on the pilotos and the decorative tiles on 308 Sul are some of the best loved by Brasilia's residents

Estacionamento entre os blocos, jardim e pilotis (2021) by Lainha LoiolaInstituto dos Arquitetos do Brasil - Departamento Distrito Federal

Pilotis reconfigured how people live in apartments. The first floor became an open public space, unimpeded by walls.

Árvores e canteiros em área de uso comum da 308 Sul (2021) by Lainha LoiolaInstituto dos Arquitetos do Brasil - Departamento Distrito Federal

Offering an open view of the urban landscape, it provides easy access to the gardens, children's playgrounds, shared spaces, schools, and other public facilities, as well as being a place for neighbors to meet.

Guinle Park

When designing the pilotis, Lúcio Costa turned to one of his innovative projects from the 1940s, namely the Guinle Park buildings in Rio de Janeiro. On that occasion, he adopted Le Corbusier's suggestion of using pilotis to leave the first story space open.

Árvores entre os blocos da 308 Sul (2021) by Lainha LoiolaInstituto dos Arquitetos do Brasil - Departamento Distrito Federal

“As for the residential problem, I came up with the solution of creating a series of large blocks with a stretch of road on both sides and framed by a large strip of densely forested land," he wrote in his Brasilia Pilot Plan Report.

Espelho d' água na entrada do bloco F da 308 Sul (2021) by Lainha LoiolaInstituto dos Arquitetos do Brasil - Departamento Distrito Federal

Landscaping by Burle Marx

Burle Max's landscaping is a key feature of the 308 Sul superblock. It embodies Lúcio Costa's idea for a city built in open country, with gardens and green spaces a major component. 

Praça com paisagismo de Burle Marx (2021) by Lainha LoiolaInstituto dos Arquitetos do Brasil - Departamento Distrito Federal

 

Carpas hornamentais do espelho d'água no jardim de Burle Marx (2021) by Lainha LoiolaInstituto dos Arquitetos do Brasil - Departamento Distrito Federal

Praça do Bloco F, um dos ícones do paisagismo de Burle Marx na 308 Sul (2021) by Lainha LoiolaInstituto dos Arquitetos do Brasil - Departamento Distrito Federal

The landscaping at the model superblock surrounds the entire block and includes a water mirror feature with ornamental carp, the Praça do Cogumelo area for children, and the Serpentário.

Praça dos Cogumelos na 308 Sul (2021) by Lainha LoiolaInstituto dos Arquitetos do Brasil - Departamento Distrito Federal

The Serpentário is a square or small park with a series of benches and small walls winding through its space. Surrounded by trees and palms, the concrete structure seems to play with the shadows cast by the leaves and branches. 

Sombras das árvores projetas sobre os cobogós (2021) by Lainha LoiolaInstituto dos Arquitetos do Brasil - Departamento Distrito Federal

Breeze blocks

Breeze blocks add a beauty of their own to the federal capital's buildings. They are often used as fencing, especially along 308 Sul's long corridor of buildings, which were designed as horizontal strips so as to accommodate more apartments without exceeding the maximum number of stories.

Plantas crescem entre os cobogós (2021) by Lainha LoiolaInstituto dos Arquitetos do Brasil - Departamento Distrito Federal

First used in Recife (PE), breeze blocks are now an architectural leitmotif in modern Brazilian architecture and are found in many buildings across Brasilia.

Cobogós atrás de galhos de árvores (2021) by Lainha LoiolaInstituto dos Arquitetos do Brasil - Departamento Distrito Federal

They have helped keep the superblocks and residential blocks open and in harmony with their external spaces, allowing natural ventilation of the apartments while shielding them from excessive sunlight. In other words, not only are they beautiful, they are also highly suited to architecture in the tropics. 

Entrada do bloco F com paisagismo de Burle Marx (2021) by Lainha LoiolaInstituto dos Arquitetos do Brasil - Departamento Distrito Federal

Windows

To the front elevation, the huge windows complement this perspective. The floor-to-ceiling frames feature eye-catching stained glass plates in blue, yellow, green … each block has a different color

Janelas de vidro de um dos blocos da 308 Sul (2021) by Lainha LoiolaInstituto dos Arquitetos do Brasil - Departamento Distrito Federal

Teaching and learning

At 308 Sul, you'll find works by leading figures in Modernist school architecture. The kindergarten, with an Athos Bulcão panel on its facade, was designed by Novacap's team of architects and the elementary school by Oscar Niemeyer. 

The iconic park school was the work of the architect José de Souza Reis. All were designed in the late 1950s to comply with the revolutionary project for comprehensive education devised by the jurist-cum-educator Anísio Teixeira. The Brasilia School Construction Plan envisaged that there should be a park school—an innovative project to provide elementary pupils with complementary recreational and artistic activities— for every four superblocks or one Neighborhood Unit.

Igrejinha Nossa Senhora de Fátima (2021) by Lainha LoiolaInstituto dos Arquitetos do Brasil - Departamento Distrito Federal

The Church

Opened in 1958, the Our Lady of Fatima Church was the first church in Brasilia to be built of brick. Designed by Oscar Niemeyer, with doors and tiles by Athos Bulcão and frescoes by Alfredo Volpi, it became one of the city's main symbols. 

Uma das laterais da Igrejinha Nossa Senhora de Fátima (2021) by Lainha LoiolaInstituto dos Arquitetos do Brasil - Departamento Distrito Federal

The Catholic church was built to fulfill a promise made by the First Lady Sarah Kubitschek to Our Lady of Fatima to thank her for curing one of her daughters of tuberculosis.

Pequena nave da Igrejinha Nossa Senhora de Fátima (2021) by Lainha LoiolaInstituto dos Arquitetos do Brasil - Departamento Distrito Federal

The church's structure is in the form of a small nave supported by three pillars that are arranged in a triangle so that the design resembles a friar's hood. 

Azulejos das paredes externas da Ingrejinha Nossa Senhora de Fátima (2021) by Lainha LoiolaInstituto dos Arquitetos do Brasil - Departamento Distrito Federal

On the external walls of the church, there is Athos Bulcão's only figurative artwork in tiles. The work represents the Holy Spirit as a dove and includes a reinterpretation of the Star of Bethlehem, which guided the three wise men to the baby Jesus.

Painel de Francisco Galeno no fundo do altar da Igrejinha da 308 Sul (2021) by Lainha LoiolaInstituto dos Arquitetos do Brasil - Departamento Distrito Federal

In 2009, Francisco Galeno, a painter from the state of Piauí, was invited to paint the church interior. The church had been left with plain white walls after the original panels by Alfredo Volpi had been destroyed decades earlier.

Detalhe da obra de Francisco Galeno na Igrejinha Nossa Senhora de Fátima (2021) by Lainha LoiolaInstituto dos Arquitetos do Brasil - Departamento Distrito Federal

Heavily inspired by Volpi's work, Galeno included elements from popular culture, such as kites, small flags, and spools of thread, in this commissioned work. 

Detalhes do painel de Francisco Galeno na Igrejinha Nossa Senhora de Fátima (2021) by Lainha LoiolaInstituto dos Arquitetos do Brasil - Departamento Distrito Federal

SQS 308 (2010-04-09) by Joana FrançaInstituto dos Arquitetos do Brasil - Departamento Distrito Federal

Discovering 308 Sul and its environs is all about strolling through the project and understanding what it means to live in Brasilia.

Credits: Story

References: 

Brazilian National Institute of Historic and Artistic Heritage (IPHAN); IPHAN Office in the Federal District. Superquadra de Brasília: preservando um lugar de viver. Brasília - DF, 2015.

Lauande, Francisco. Uso do pilotis em Brasília: do protótipo ao estereótipo. Vitruvius, Revista Minha Cidade, 2006. 

Macedo, Danilo Matoso; Silva, Elcio Gomes da; Schlee, Andrey Rosenthal; França, Joana. Brasília: roteiro de Arquitetura, caderno de notas. 3rd Edition - Rio de Janeiro, RJ: Docomomo Brasil, 2020.
Ferreira, Marcílio Mendes; Gorovitz, Matheus.A Invenção da Superquadra: o conceito da Unidade de Vizinhança em Brasília.  Brazilian National Institute of Historic and Artistic Heritage (IPHAN); IPHAN Office in the Federal District. Brasília - DF, 2007.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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