Justine Sambrook on the optimism and vision that made a new city in the middle of Brazil possible…

Chamber of Deputies and National Congress buildings, Eixo Monumental, Brasilia

Image (enlarge): Chamber of Deputies and National Congress buildings, Brasilia
Architect: Oscar Niemeyer
Photographer: Monica Pidgeon
© Monica Pidgeon / RIBA Library Photographs Collection
Image from RIBApix

It’s over fifty years since the creation of Brazil’s utopian, purpose-built capital Brasilia. The aim was to invigorate the centre of the country and engender a renewed sense of national pride. To design a forward-looking city, without the cultural restraints of existing structures, was a Modernist’s dream and Oscar Niemeyer grasped the chance, recruiting Lucio Costa as urban planner.

Costa’s bird-like plan, consisting of two vast intersecting axes, represents the cross erected by Brazil’s pioneers to symbolise the birth of a new civilisation. Niemeyer’s buildings are among his most emblematic, the juxtaposition of alien volumes with tracts of empty space producing a strange yet monumental landscape.

Justine Sambrook
Curator, Robert Elwall Photographs Collection, British Architectural Library, RIBA


About Wilson Yau
I work for the British Architectural Library at the RIBA as part of a team to share news, images and information online about the activities of the Library and the fascinating items we have in our architectural collections – it contains over four million items, so there's plenty to see! If you’re curious about what we do at the Library and with the collections, or want to discover the latest about our education programmes, public events and exhibitions at the RIBA, please visit www.architecture.com

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