Work to build Brazil’s utopian, purpose-built capital Brasilia began in 1956. 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.
Article by Justine Sambrook, C urator, Robert Elwall Photographs Collection, British Architectural Library , RIBA