I have to report that I missed out a few colonial heritage sites in Brazil because I felt I’d probably seen enough of a similar type. It was therefore wonderfully refreshing to visit the modernist, utopian capital that is Brasilia. Once again I chickened out of the long bus ride from Salvador and hammered my credit card with another flight.
The idea of moving the capital to a location closer to the centre of the country had been mooted since the late seventeenth century. In 1956 the then president appointed a commission to identify a suitable location and four years later Brasilia, founded on virgin land, was ready to replace Rio de Janeiro as the capital.
The overall layout is based on a cross, with one of the members curved, making it look rather like a bird or aircraft. The straight axis runs east to west and contains all the cultural, government and administrative areas and also has the hotel zone – it is referred to as the Monumental Axis. Residential areas are on the curved axis.
The whole city is laid out with wide roads and large green areas, making it a very unsuitable for walking around. Not only is it very spread out but finding your way across the roads or around over and underpasses can be tricky. There are buses and a growing metro system for the residents to get around and for once I resorted to an open top bus tour to ensure I saw all the main sights, particularly those out of the centre. I did go on an urban hike the next day to revisit the cultural and government zones though.
Of course the entire city was not built in the ’50s: buildings are going up all the time. And while many are just your basic cubic tower block, there are some outstandingly interesting buildings in the city, almost all designed by the architect Oscar Niemeyer.
The only building of which I saw the interior was the Cathedral, which is partly subterranean with an almost fully glass conical roof, covered with a large abstract stained glass design. The interior is all very modern and functional but with a few odd outbreaks of cluttered retro Catholicism.
I would have liked to visit the hemispherical museum, if only to see how they made it work as display space, but it was closed for exhibition change over.
At the end of the Monumental Axis are the various palaces of government, just past the ranks of identical ministry buildings. There is an open space populated with a number of sculptures called the Three Powers Plaza as the homes of the three branches of governmental power (executive, legislative and judicial) are places around it.
The legislative occupies the National Congress building, which is what I chose to depict in Lego.
The building has a dome over the chamber of the upper house and an inverted dome over that of the lower one.