Brasilia, Brazil

A definitive example of 20th century modernist urbanism

Brasília (1987) by BrasiliaUNESCO World Heritage

Laid out along a monumental east-west axis, crossed by a north-south axis curved to follow the topography as a transportation thoroughfare, Brasilia is a definitive example of 20th century modernist urbanism.

TV Tower (1987) by BrasiliaUNESCO World Heritage

Created as the Brazilian capital in the central western part of the country from 1956 to 1960 as part of President Juscelino Kubitschek’s national modernization project, the city brought together ideas of grand administrative centres and public spaces with new ideas of urban living as promoted by Le Corbusier in six-storey housing blocks (quadras) supported on pylons which allowed the landscape to flow beneath and around them.

Juscelino Kubitschek Bridge (1987) by BrasiliaUNESCO World Heritage

The city’s planning is noteworthy for the remarkable congruence of Lucio Costa’s urban design (the ‘Plano Piloto’) and Oscar Niemeyer’s architectural creations, most powerfully reflected in the intersection between the monumental and thoroughfare axes, which stands as the determining factor of the city’s urban scheme and underscores the representative character of Three Powers Square (Praça dos Três Poderes) and the Esplanade of the Ministries (Esplanada dos Ministérios).

Model Neighborhood Unit Superquadras Sul (1987) by BrasiliaUNESCO World Heritage

This also manifested in the geometry of the National Congress and in the new approach to urban living embodied in the Neighborhood Units (Unidade de Vizinhança) and their corresponding Superblocks (Superquadras).

Monumental axis (1987) by BrasiliaUNESCO World Heritage

Brasilia is a singular artistic achievement, a prime creation of the human genius, representing, on an urban scale, the living expression of the principles and ideals advanced by the Modernist Movement and effectively embodied in the tropics through the urban and architectural planning of Lucio Costa and Oscar Niemeyer.

The Brazilian experience is notable for the grandiosity of the project, one which not only brought to a definitive close a particular historical epoch, but which was closely tied to an ambitious development strategy and to a process of national self-affirmation before the world.

Lucio Costa Space (1987) by BrasiliaUNESCO World Heritage

Subterranean space located on Three Power Square dedicated to the town planner Lucio Costa. The main attraction is a large tridimensional plan of the city.

City Park Sarah Kubitschek (1987) by BrasiliaUNESCO World Heritage

Paranoa Lake (1987) by BrasiliaUNESCO World Heritage

Paranoá Lake, in Brasília, was planned, and therefore is an artificial lake, constructed in 1959. It is 40 km² and 48m deep. One of the Lake’s objectives was to raise the city’s humidity, since Brasília is naturally very dry.

Paranoa Lake (1987) by BrasiliaUNESCO World Heritage

But Lake Paranoá has also become a tourist spot due to its beauty and the leisure activities it offers.

Brasilia National Park - Água Mineral (1987) by BrasiliaUNESCO World Heritage

National Congress (1987) by BrasiliaUNESCO World Heritage


Brasilia is a unique example of urban planning brought to fruition in the 20th century. It is an expression of the urban principles of the Modernist Movement as set out in the 1943 Athens Charter, in Le Corbusier’s 1946 treatise How to Conceive Urbanism, and in the architectural designs of Oscar Niemeyer.

Alvorada Palace (1987) by BrasiliaUNESCO World Heritage

This includes the buildings of the three powers (Presidential Palace, Supreme Court and Congress with its twin highrise buildings flanked by the cupola of the Senate building and by the inverted one of the House of Representatives), and the Cathedral with its 16 parabaloids 40 metres in height, the Pantheon of Juscelino Kubitschek and the National Theatre.

Metropolitan Cathedral Our Lady of Aparecida (1987) by BrasiliaUNESCO World Heritage

The Cathedral was inaugurated in May 1970. Consecrated architect Oscar Niemeyer designed the church, as well as the Alvorada Palace, the National Congress, the Planalto Palace and the Federal Supreme Court buildings, among others.

The church has a peculiar beauty. Held by 16 arched pillars that form a thorn crown, the central nave is covered by an immense stained glass panel projected by Marianne Peretti, made out of glass fiber pieces in blue, green, white and brown.

Metropolitan Cathedral Our Lady of Aparecida (1987) by BrasiliaUNESCO World Heritage

Inside the church, three huge angel sculptures by Alfredo Ceschiatti float from the ceiling suspended by steel cables. The baptistery is covered in tiles painted by Athos Bulcão. The Via Sacra is a piece of work by Di Cavalcanti and the image of Our Lady Aparecida is a replica of the original, this one located in Aparecida, in the state of Sao Paulo. There are four bronze statues in front of the church, each one three meters high: The Evangelists, by Alfredo Ceschiatti and Dante Croce. Beside it is the Steeple, with a set of bells donated by Spain.

Nossa Senhora de Fátima Church Nossa Senhora de Fátima Church (1987) by BrasiliaUNESCO World Heritage

Honestino Guimarães National Museum (1987) by BrasiliaUNESCO World Heritage

Catetinho Museum (1987) by BrasiliaUNESCO World Heritage

Opened in 1956 as Juscelino Kubitschek’s first official residence in Brasilia, Catetinho is a wooden building, hence known as the Wooden Palace. Conceived by Oscar Niemeyer, the structure was built in only 10 days and turned into a museum. It pays homage to Juscelino Kubitschek and the early days of the construction. Its main attractions are the rooms of guests, the rooms of the president, the Office Room and the kitchen, which was rebuilt with scenographic material.

TV Tower (1987) by BrasiliaUNESCO World Heritage

Opened in 1967, the TV Tower is one of Lucio Costa’s few architectural projects. The Tower is 224 meters high and has an observatory 75 meters from ground level that allows a 360-degree panoramic view of the city.

Credits: Story

This exhibit was created by Embratur

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