Brasília, the federal capital of Brazil, is a unique example of urban planning brought to fruition in the 20th century. It represents, on an urban scale, the living expression of the principles and ideals advanced by the Modernist Movement and effectively embodied through the urban and architectural planning of Lucio Costa and Oscar Niemeyer.
Brasília is a unique example of urban planning brought to fruition in the 20th century; 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 which include:
- the buildings of the three powers (Presidential Palace, Supreme Court and Congress with its twin high-rise buildings flanked by the cupola of the Senate building and by the inverted one of the House of Representatives)
- the Cathedral with its 16 parabaloids 40 m (130 ft) in height
- the Pantheon of Juscelino Kubitschek
- the National Theater
Laid out along a monumental east-west axis, crossed by a north-south axis curved to follow the topography as a transportation thoroughfare, Brasília is a definitive example of 20th century modernist urbanism.
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 centers and public spaces with new ideas of urban living as promoted by Le Corbusier in six story housing blocks (quadras) supported on pylons which allowed the landscape to flow beneath and around them.
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). It is also manifest 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).