By Arkady Petrov

BRASILIA, BRAZIL – Brasília is not merely a city built out of nowhere, which would not be a small feat in itself. Nor is it only the founding myth of a country looking for itself.

Or, in the words of the opponents, a pharaonic gesture that invented the pernicious marriage of contractors with the State and inflation. It is this too, but it still is too little.

Brasília is not only one of the most unequal and segregating cities in the world. It is more than the greatest site of modern architecture on the planet; and much more than world heritage.

Brasília is the last megalomaniac breath of modern urbanism, but that is a small portion of what it is. Brasília is lyrical, bucolic and very unfunctional, but that does not say much.

It is telluric, cosmic, urban and rural, it is Brazilian with French, English, North American and even Chinese affiliation.

Brasília was built at the cost of many deaths, of the workmen that fell off scaffolding, off work elevators, off metal structures. Of those who died of nostalgia, of those who were maddened by such a density of senses. It was all at the same time.

As if the world were being invented and all of them participated. It is all that was said here, but not only what was said here.

Counted from the day of approval of the law creating the Urbanization Company of New Capital, Novacap, until April 21st, 1960, Brasília was built in three years and three months.

Brasília dazzled the world in 1,185 days.

The Diários de Brasília (Brasilia Diaries) recorded visits to the construction site from the time the first news emerged that Brazil would build a new capital in the middle of nowhere.

Published by the Presidency of the Republic in 1960, Brasília and foreign opinion reproduce news and articles by journalists, architects, writers, filmmakers, and intellectuals from 48 countries, from all five continents.

Itamaraty Palace, Brasília Capital City, Brazil

When Brasília began to be built, the world was still trying to recover from disillusionment. It had been 11 years since World War II had ended and the Cold War was starting with the potential to destroy the world with the single push of a button.

The idea of a new city within a jungle rekindled the desire that an Eldorado would save us from our human misery. It was a chance to dream, after so much suffering.

Europe was in shambles, but in a German city named Düsseldorf, a teenager named Wilhelm Ernest Wenders was taken aback by pictures of the astonishing city that was being built deep in Brazil.

“On my bedroom walls I had all the information and images I could have about Brasília,” said filmmaker Wim Wenders to Folha de S.Paulo in August 2008.

Wim Wenders’s Brasília is off the wall of his teenage room. This is the universal Brasília, which accounts for all the others, which contains in itself the human dream of transposing our miseries to invent the collective address where everything fits, our pettiness and our greatness, our contradictions and our wants.

Many were the planet’s illustrious and famous who were here. Even the mythical Yuri Gagarin who, at the time, traveled the world recounting the adventure of being the first man to leave the Earth’s orbit.

Among them were John Dos Passos, Frank Capra, André Malraux, Japanese prince Takahito Mikasa, Bruno Zevi (who hated Brasília), Raymond Cartier, Fidel Castro, Margot Fonteyn, Aldous Huxley, and Georges Mathieu.

Frank Capra: “For the inhabitants of the world, Brasília means faith and hope in the future. At a time when the world fears its destruction, the building of Brasília is a restorative tonic.”

Georges Mathieu: “I saw Brasilia by plane, by car, on foot, and by helicopter. And I was fascinated (…). The world has never had as many reasons to hope as it has with you, Brazilians.”

Brasília gave hope to the world.



  1. Arkady Petrov:
    Great article. I enjoyed your article very much. I lived in Brasilia for a few years and felt close to what you wrote. It was right-on. Thank you.


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