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Brasilia, the capital of Brazil

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Published on Oct 13, 2007

Brasilia was built to be Brazil's new capital city. The idea was to transfer the federal capital of Brazil from the coast to midwestern / interior of the country. Brazil had had two capital cities before that: Rio de Janeiro and Salvador da Bahia. By transferring the capital city to the interior, the government intended to help to populate that area of the county. People from all over the country were hired to build the city, but especially those from the Northeast region of Brazil. Brasilia is known, internationally, for having applied the principles established in the Athens Charter of 1933.

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 idea of placing Brazil's capital in the interior dates back to the first republican constitution of 1891, which roughly defined where the federal district should be placed, but the site itself was not defined until 1922. Brasília's location, it was argued, would promote the development of Brazil's central region and better integrate the entire territory of Brazil.

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 cathedrals 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.

The city's project is, up to this day, a world reference when the issue is urban planning. The idea of spreading residential buildings around expansive urban areas, of tracing the city plan around large avenues and dividing it into sectors, has produced an intense debate and reflections on life in big cities in the 20th century.

The city also hosts a varied assortment of art works from great artists like Bruno Giorgi, Alfredo Ceschiatti, Athos Bulcão, Marienne Peretti, Volpi, Di Cavalcanti, Victor Brecheret and Burle Marx, whose works have been integrated into the city's architecture, making it a unique landscape.

A scene for political events, music performances and movie festivals, Brasília is a cosmopolitan city, with around 90 embassies, a wide range of restaurants and complete infrastructure ready to host any kind of event. Not surprisingly, the city stands out as an important business tourism destination, which is a rising segment of the local economy, crowding dozens of hotels spread around the national capital.

The Brazilian capital is the only city in the world built in the 20th century to be awarded (in 1987) the status of Historical and Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO, a specialized agency of the United Nations. And there are plenty of reasons for such renown: this young city, inaugurated in 1960, surprises even the most experienced travellers.

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