Brasilia: AD 1956

Brazil, during the ten years after the death of Vargas, returns to a chaotic and fragile democracy. But the period is outstanding for one major achievement - the creation of Brasilia.

From as early as the 18th century it has been argued that a capital far inland is required if the nation's vast interior is to be developed. Andrada makes the same point in 1822, the year of independence. The siting of a capital somewhere on the central plateau is written into the constitution of 1889 (at the start of the republic). But it is not until 1956, after an extensive analysis of the various options, that a site is finally chosen.

The president at the time, Juscelino Kubitschek, takes the bold decision that the seat of government will move as early as 1960. A competition for the overall design of the city is won by Lúcio Costa and the state buildings are entrusted to Oscar Niemeyer. Both architects are deeply influenced by Le Corbusier, who visited Brazil in 1929 and again in 1936. The resulting city is an outstanding example of modernist architecture.

The federal district of Brasilia also establishes itself very rapidly as a thriving national centre. A place with no inhabitants in 1956 has 120,000 in 1960, 210,000 in 1965, 1.5 million in 1985 and 2.5 million in 1995.

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