It is Brasília — and not Rio de Janeiro — that is the capital of Brazil. A purpose built city and architectural icon that was constructed in the heart of Brazil to be the capital of the new Brazil, the country of the future.
50 years on from its inauguration, Brasília is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that is famous for its daring, original and modernist architecture and innovative urban planning.
It was President Juscelino Kubitschek, Brazil’s 21st, that made Brasília a reality. If John Kennedy wanted to put a man on the moon, Kubitschek was determined to build Brasília as the nation’s new capital and gave the go ahead to start construction as soon as he took office in 1956. By 21 April 1960 he was able to inaugurate the city with US President Eisenhower at his side.
The diplomatic as well as the political communities also had to transfer from Rio de Janeiro to Brasília, and that gave many foreign governments the opportunity to build modern new embassies that reflected the spirit of their countries in the 1960s.
Brasília’s unique layout — the brainchild of Lucio Costa — is often compared to an airplane, a bird in flight, or a bow and arrow. If a plane, the principal government and public buildings are found along its ‘fuselage’, while the ‘wings’ contain the residential areas along with many of the city’s bars, restaurants and hotels. A good vantage point to view Brasília from is the observation deck of the TV Tower.
Running through the ‘fuselage’ is the ‘Monumental Axis’ (Eixo Monumental), which is lined by the most important government buildings including the huge Palácio do Itamaraty that houses Brazil’s foreign ministry. The nose of the fuselage is home to the Houses of Parliament (Congresso Nacional) and the office of the president (Palácio do Planalto).
Outstanding architectural features include one of architect Oscar Niemeyer’s most famous creations, the Congresso Nacional, a building that consists of two 28-story-high towers ﬂanked by the futuristic dome of the Senate and the ‘saucer’ of the Chamber of Deputies. It is possible to arrange guided tours of the Congresso Nacional, the Palácio do Planalto and Palácio do Itamaraty, and to watch parliamentary debates from the public gallery.
The Metropolitan Cathedral designed to resemble a crown of thorns is another Niemeyer masterpiece. The city’s pyramid-shaped National Theatre (Teatro Nacional) is also a striking building. Its auditoriums are used for a wide range of cultural events; including concerts by the city’s own symphony orchestra.
Due to Brasília’s strategic location, it is relatively easy for people touring Brazil to visit, if only for a 24-hour stop over to get a taste of this remarkable city. Most non-tourist visitors go to Brasília for meetings with the Brazilian government. All three powers of the republic are based here, parliament, judiciary and presidency. Because of the working nature of Brasília, tourists will often find hotel rates are considerably cheaper from Friday to Monday.
Located in the heart of Brazil, Brasília has excellent flight connections to Rio and São Paulo, as well as the key cities in the Northeast. Flights between Rio, São Paulo and Manaus (the main gateway to the Amazon) often stop in Brasília. There are also frequent flights to Cuiaba, one of the gateways to the Pantanal, while close by is the spectacular Chapada dos Veadeiros national park.
Brasília is also considered a major centre of spiritualism with many spiritual communities located on the outskirts of the city (Vale do Amannhecer) and in the neighbouring state of Goiás. These attract followers from around the globe. In Brasília it is possible to visit the Temple of Good Will with its giant pyramid.
The state of Goiás is also known for its hydrothermal resorts (Caldas Novas and Rio Quente), as well as the picturesque town of Pirenópolis and the national park of Chapada dos Veadeiros which is a UNESCO World Heritage site.The historic centre of Goiás is also a World Heritage site.
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Christopher Pickard – Brazil the Guide – Critical Divide
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