In 1956 the newly elected president of Brazil, Juscelino Kubitschek, spoke with the Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer: “I am going to build a new capital for this country and I want you to help me,” he said. With that, Oscar Niemeyer became the planner and chief architect of Brazil’s new capital. In April of 1960, Brasilia, the purpose-built modernist city in the middle of the highland jungles of Brazil, became the country’s capital. More than 25 of the monumental and government buildings in Brasilia were ultimately designed by Oscar Niemeyer. Brasilia became a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1987 due to this modernist architecture and premeditated urban planning. Here’s our grand tour of Oscar Niemeyer modernist architecture in Brasilia, primarily along the city’s Monumenal Axis.
The Modernist Architecture of Oscar Niemeyer in Brasilia, Brazil
The National Congress (Supremo Tribunal Federal) of Brazil, pictured above, is home to the national legislature and is the centerpiece of Brasilia’s “Monumental Axis” which is the grand avenue that the city of Brasilia was built around. This avenue is where most of the government buildings and monuments (including all but the last two buildings mentioned in this post) were built.
In the middle of the Monumental Axis (Eixo Monumental), pictured above, stands the TV Tower (Torre de TV). From its observation deck you get a great overview of the Monumental Axis and Brasilia’s modernist design.
The Planalto Palace (Palácio do Planalto) is the official office of the President. It stands on Three Powers Plaza (Praça dos Três Poderes) because the plaza represents the meeting of the three governmental branches of powers: the executive branch represented by the Planalto Palace, the legislative branch represented by the National Congress, and the judiciary branch represented by the Supreme Federal Court.
The Supreme Federal Court (Supremo Tribunal Federal) is the highest court in Brazil.
The Cathedral of Brasilia, more formally known as the Metropolitan Cathedral of Our Lady of Aparecida (Catedral Metropolitana Nossa Senhora Aparecida) is one of Brasilia’s signature buildings and an iconic Niemeyer design both inside (pictured below) and outside (pictured above).
Tancredo Neves Pantheon of the Fatherland and Freedom (Panteão da Pátria e da Liberdade Tancredo Neves) also sits on the Three Powers Plaza. Following the 1984 death of Tancredo Neves, the first civilian President elected to office after twenty years of military rule in Brazil, the Tancredo Neves Pantheon of the Fatherland and Freedom was built to honor national heroes.
The Ministry of External relations is based out of the Itamaraty Palace (Palácio Itamaraty). The building is also known as the Palace of the Arches and is seen above with the National Congress towers in the background.
The Palace of Justice (Palácio da Justiça) is home to the Ministry of Justice.
Part of the Cultural Complex of the Republic. along with the National Library, the National Museum of the Republic (Museu Nacional Honestino Guimarães), pictured above, hosts temporary art exhibits.
Niemeyer’s JK Memorial, pictured above, is a museum and memorial dedicated to Juscelino Kubitschek who was President of Brazil between 1956 and 1961. Kubitscheck is viewed as the father of modern Brazil and he was responsible for the creation of Brasilia.
The Brasilia Palace Hotel, pictured above, was one of the first buildings to be built in Brasilia. It was nearly destroyed by fire in 1978 and was abandoned for nearly a decade after that before Niemeyer was brought in to oversee a gorgeous restoration of his original design.
The Palace of Dawn (Palácio da Alvorada), pictured above, is the official residence of the President of Brazil. Though recent reports in Brazilian newspapers say the current president no longer lives there because of ghosts in the building.
Below is a little dash-cam time-lapse video shot while driving around the Monumental Axis in Brasilia.
Here’s more about travel in Brazil