Brasília is 60

Today, April 21st, is the time to think about Brasília, Brazil’s capital, which marks its 60th anniversary. It was built by the ambitious Brazilian president Juscelino Kubitschek, who moved the capital away from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil’s capital since 1763, creating a new and modern city from scratch. So what is special about Brasilia from an architecture point view?

It was the masterwork of urban modernism, like Le Corbusier’s Chandigarh, like Herbert Baker’s New Delhi, but more beautiful, more photogenic, white and pristine, filled with many architectural gems. Brasilia was created by Brazil’s most legendary architect Oscar Niemeyer (1907-2012), who received the 1988 Pritzker Prize in recognizing his innovation in this project. Taking only two years to construct, it came to symbolize the death of colonialism and the birth of independent nationalism, a true masterpiece of 20th century architecture for both its style and narrative.

Niemeyer was the best choice for creating a genuine expression in architecture that came to reflect Brazilian national identity, as he knew the local culture so well. He was able to get his inspiration from the music, dance, and other aspects of the country’s relaxed lifestyle and culture. The buildings are all biomorphic, sensual, modernist in a Brazilian version. They are curvy, soft, sexy, and different than the rectilinear orthodox modernism. In fact, in the photos, they may look more like structures in an amusement part of fantasy, than like governmental buildings. Niemeyer’s architecture was heroic expression of the rising space-age and a pure reflection of the Brazilian people. His buildings have been photographed beautifully, and his vision was spread across the globe through those images. 

Today – Brasilia is 60. 

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Photo: LEONARDO FINOTTI

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Photo: AFP/Getty Images

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Photo: GONZALO VIRAMONTE

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