1. Travel
Send to a Friend via Email

Brasilia, Capital of Brazil

Monument to Brazil

By

Brasilia, Goias City view

Brasilia, Goias City view

Fernando Bueno / Getty Images
Brasilia, the capital of Brazil, is a monument to what Brazilians can do and have done. It's a city pointing like an arrow into the future. It's built on a massive scale, with large, innovative buildings, a freedom of spirit and imagination.

It was built to honor the beauty and soul of Brazil, yet it does not attract or charm visitors the way other Brazilian cities do.

Why not?

More than a century before Juscelino Kubitschek’s Presidency (January 31, 1956 - January 31, 1961), at least two men suggested a new capital, away from the sea and safe from invaders. In 1823, José Bonifácio de Andrada e Silva, a counselor and minister to Dom Pedro I, presented a bill to the Brazilian assembly to build a new capital and suggested the name "Brasília" for the new city. The bill was added to the constitution but never enacted when Dom Pedro I dissolved the assembly. Later, the Italian saint Dom Bosco had a dream which was interpreted to mean the construction of a new city "Between parallels 15 and 20." Preliminary site selection of a 14,400 km2 area in the State of Goias and a symbolic marker, laid in 1922, paved the way but nothing more was done until 1955.

Part of the difficulty was the great distance of the new capital from the rest of Brazil. The chosen site, though able to accommodate a great city, near rivers, was over 360 miles (600km) from the nearest paved road, 75 miles (125km) from the nearest railroad, and some 115 miles (190km) from the nearest airport. See this interactive map from Expedia.

When Kubitschek was inaugurated, he vowed to honor the constitution, and with the slogan "50 years in 5", he obtained Congressional authorization and building began in 1956 with a temporary presidential residency. A series of competitions or contests, between architects and urban planners resulted in the selection of Lúcio Costa’s plan, Plano Piloto. The higlights of this modern, ideal city of the Pilot Plan incorporated dignity, a vast scale, and futuristic qualities. (Plot Map) Construction began on this plan in 1957 and Brasilia was inaugurated as the new capital of Brazil on April 21, 1960 though construction of the city was not yet complete.

When Kubitschek was mayor of Belo Horizonte in 1940, he made Oscar Niemeyer, then just beginning his career, responsible for the reurbanization of Pampulha. Niemeyer had worked with Lúcio Costa, in 1938, in creating Brazilian pavilion in the New York World's Fair. These two had worked under the famed architect Le Corbusier in the design of the Ministry of Education and Health in Rio. He had also designed the Edificio Copan] in São Paulo.

Niemeyer was the architect of many buildings in Brasilia, including the Congress, the Palace of Dawn (Palácio da Alvorada), the Palace of Justice, Palácio do Planalto, Palácio dos Arcos (also called Itamaraty), the Cathedral, University of Brasilia, National Theater, and the Juscelino Kubitschek Memorial. The JK (as it is called) Memorial is the resting place of the former president, and houses his private library and some personal possessions. Niemeyer was the architect of many buildings in Brasilia, including the Congress, the Palace of Dawn (Palácio da Alvorada), the Palace of Justice, Palácio do Planalto, Palácio dos Arcos (also called Itamaraty), the Cathedral, University of Brasilia, National Theater, and JK Memorial.

In deference to the theory of modernism in architecture, the plot plan of the city was of a bird in flight, or an airplane. Government and administrative buildings form the body of the plane, while residential and shopping areas extend out the wings. The plan is clearly visible in this view of Brasilia from space.

The city was planned with space set aside in every residential block for apartments, restaurants, shops and services. The theory that each apartment block, quadra, would create its own egalitarian neighborhood. Planning down to the smallest detail, including the color and make of taxi cabs and bus drivers uniforms, the urban planners allowed for a maximum of 500,000 residents. Instead, with the thousands of workers that came to build the city, and stayed, the population growth spurred a number of "satellite" cities surrounding the capital.

There are two main roadways in the city. Eixo Monumental runs east/west for a distance of more than 6 miles (10km). The monuments and public buildings are along this route, and it divides the wings of the airplane int Asa Norte, or N (north wing), and Asa Sul, or S (south wing). Eixo Rodoviario runs in a north/south curving line. They intersect at the Rodoviaria, the city's bus terminal. This is the only building Costa designed, and he envisioned it as the central gathering place for the residents. Unfortunately, this hasn't happened.

Elsewhere on the Web
Related Video
Brazil: Sao Paulo's Big Worm Flyover

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.