Justine Sambrook on the optimism and vision that made a new city in the middle of Brazil possible…
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.
Curator, Robert Elwall Photographs Collection, British Architectural Library, RIBA