Brasília is the capital of Brazil. It is coterminous with the Distrito Federal (Federal District) and borders the states of Goiás and Minas Gerais. The city and the district are located in the Central-West region of the country, along a plateau known as Planalto Central. It has a population of about 2,455,903 as of the 2007 IBGE census, making it the fourth largest city in Brazil. It is listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
As the national capital, Brasília is the seat of all three branches of the Brazilian government. The city also hosts the headquarters of many Brazilian companies such as the Bank of Brazil, Caixa Econômica Federal and Brasil Telecom. The city is a world reference for urban planning. The locating of residential buildings around expansive urban areas, of building the city around large avenues and dividing it into sectors, has sparked a debate and reflection on life in big cities in the 20th century. The city’s planned design included specific areas for almost everything, including accommodation – Hotel Sectors North and South.
Brasília was built to be Brazil’s new capital city. The idea was to transfer the federal capital of Brazil from the coast to the midwestern interior of the country. Previously the capital of Brazil was situated in Rio de Janeiro and before that in Salvador. By relocating the capital city to the interior, the government intended to help populate that area of the country. People from all over the country were hired to build the city, especially those from the Northeast region of Brazil. These workers would be known as candangos. Brasília is known, internationally, for having applied the principles established in the Athens Charter of 1933 (which is a plan for building a functional city based on urban design).
President Juscelino Kubitschek ordered the construction of Brasília, fulfilling an article of the country’s constitution stating that the capital should be moved from Rio de Janeiro to a place close to the center of the country. Lúcio Costa won a contest and was the main urban planner. Oscar Niemeyer, a close friend of Lúcio, was the chief architect of most public buildings and Roberto Burle Marx was the landscape designer. Brasília was built in 41 months, from 1956 to April 21, 1960, when it was officially inaugurated.
From 1763 to 1960, Rio de Janeiro was the capital of Brazil. At this time, resources tended to be centred in Brazil’s southeast region near Rio de Janeiro. Brasília’s geographical central location made for a more regionally neutral federal capital.
The concept of locating the capital in the center of Brazil was first made in 1891 but was not defined until 1922.
According to a legend, Italian saint Don Bosco in 1883 had a prophetic dream in which he described a futuristic city that roughly fitted Brasília’s location. Today, in Brasília, there are many references to this educator who founded the Salesian order. One of the main churches in the city bears his name.
Brasília is the result of a modern urban project designed by Lúcio Costa. When seen from above, the city’s pilot plan resembles the shape of an airplane – many prefer to refer to it as a bird with open wings –, although the architect’s original urban concept pointed to the shape of a cross, to symbolize possession.