Brasilia was the dream of every modern architect; it was the opportunity to create a city, a capital city from scratch, a place where they could design everything according to their design principles and beliefs of what a city should be like. Almost like a studio project that would actually be constructed.

It was President Juscelino Kubitschek, who, in 1956, decided to go through the proposal to build a new city. The idea of a new capital city dated back from 1891. In 1956 with his famous slogan “5 years in 50” he started to plan the city. There was an open contest for Brazilian architects and planners to come up with the urban plan of this new capital.

The competition was won by young urban planner Lucio Costa; with his scheme of a bird with its wings open, or an airplane, that conquered the judges of the competition where his friend architect Oscar Niemeyer was in the selection committee. He proposed two monumental axes that crossed themselves semi-perpendicular; each one of the axes would have a unique and different personality: the east/west would have a more colossal scale, and would contain all the governments’ buildings, ending in one extreme with a plaza called Three Power Plaza, where the President’s office, the National congress and the Supreme Federal Tribunal were located. On the other axe, the north/south; it was going to be on a more human scale, with residential buildings along the “wings”. The buildings of the city were designed by Oscar Niemayer; a showcase of modern architecture, with outstanding buildings like the National Congress building and the Cathedral. Due to time pressure, some other secondary buildings had similar architecture, like the Palace of Alvorada, the Supreme Federal Tribunal, and the Palace of Planalto. The apartment buildings also looked alike, making an issue to get inside the city since so many buildings had the same appearance.

During the construction of this new city, the workers were housed in construction camps which were supposed to be temporary, but later evolved in to cities which now house a percentage of people that work in Brasilia, but can’t afford the high cost of living in the capital. Some critics say that these satellite cities are friendlier to live in, that have more the spirit of Brazilian people and traditions, as opposed to Brasilia, where most of the people who work there only spend three to four days a week in the city.

In conclusion, though there are many aspects of Brasilia that did work, and is recognized worldwide for its architecture and called World heritage site by UNESCO, there are others that didn’t work: like the feeling pedestrian have when walking through the city, and also that many people can’t afford to live in it. Brasilia and its satellite cities are places with very high contrasts.



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