It’s been called “the most fabulous dream in the new continent” (Angel Rama) and “one of the most dismal cities in the world” (Marshall Berman). For some, the city is a masterpiece of design, the high point of architect Oscar Niemeyer’s career; for critics it’s an anti-social, quasi-authoritarian dead zone deprived of welcoming public spaces and dominated by the automobile.
Brasilia was inaugurated fifty years ago as Brazil’s new capital — a city built from scratch on arid savannah in the almost geographic centre of the country. Conceived by Niemeyer and urban planner Lucio Costa, it remains one of the world’s largest ready-made cities, and arguably the most controversial.
The president who commissioned the city’s construction, Juscelino Kubitschek, optimistically dubbed it the “Capital of the Third Millennium.” Brasilia’s golden anniversary certainly arrives at an auspicious moment for the country, as Brazil asserts its economic and political status as new superpower on the block.