Brasilia: the capital of hope
A modern and modernist showcase for Brazil's destiny, and a tribute to the brilliant abilities of the architect Oscar Niemeyer, Brasilia is unique in the world.It is a capital built ‘by the will of a man and the hope of a nation'.
Brasilia is the life-size realisation of an enduring dream, that of ‘50 years of progress in 5 years'. It was the dream of a man, Juscelino Kubitschek de Oliveira, the President of the Republic of Brazil from 1956 to 1961. The foundation of the new capital was the emblem of the country's ‘Brazilianisation', of affirming its cultural identity and defining the characteristics of an urban, modern, and industrial Brazil. It was a Brazil on the path to economic independence in the early 1950s, hosting its first FIFA World Cup under the swaying rhythm of the emerging Bossa Nova, and the triumph of Brazilian cinema novo, an important film movement which influenced the French New Wave.
Brasilia presented the challenge of moving the capital to the interior of the country, to an arid zone, in the middle of nowhere. It was a project of national modernity, encompassing nature, where the Brazilian people, the intellectuals, and the state converged. It was a collective, progressive movement, which embodied social and cultural emancipation, national integration, and economic development. Its aesthetic expression was crowned by its registration as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987.
Urban planner Lúcio Costa designed the city plan, in the image (you choose) of either an airplane or a bird with outstretched wings. Oscar Ribeiro de Almeida Niemeyer Soares, known simply as ‘Oscar Niemeyer', built the main buildings, imposing on the world—which marvelled at his audacity—the mark of modernism. And Roberto Burle Marx, a wonderful landscape architect, who came to architecture through painting, adorned it with parks and gardens, both external and internal. Brasilia was the boldest city the West hadever imagined and designed. One where the architecture played a role as the national modernising instrument of the state, embellished by statues, here and there, by Bruno Giorgi, Alfredo Ceschiatti, Dante Croce,and Marianne Peretti.
Costa's pilot plan for the city combines two axes. The first, the Eixo Monumental (‘Monumental Axis'), cuts the city from east to west into two symmetrical parts, and houses government building on its wide esplanades. The second, the Eixo Rodoviáro or Eixāo, corresponds to the human (with outstretched wings), the residential, and to daily life. At the intersection of these two paths is the urban core. In the background of the capital, the native vegetation represents the area's original state.
Brasilia became a favourite destination for all those who believed in the power of art and culture as an elevating dream. André Malraux, visiting Brasilia in the middle of the work in 1959, exclaimed: ‘Almost all cities have developed themselves around a privileged place. History can now contemplate, with us today, the appearance of the first buildings of a city made by the will of a man and the hope of a nation'.