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Niemeyer's Cathedral
Niemeyer's Cathedral

Brasília is the capital city of Brazil and is located in the center of the country in a federal district created out of the state of Goiás. It is between 15°30' and 16°03' South latitude, limited by the Preto River on the East and by the Descoberto River on the West. Brasília is situated at approximately 1000 m altitude on a plateau called the Planalto Central.


Population and communications

The city was originally planned for 500,000 inhabitants, but has grown to about two million (2,016,497 est. 2000), including satellite towns and the Federal District today. Central Brasília, known as Plano Piloto, has a population of around 200,000. Most people live in satellite towns. The population of the most important of these is as following: Taguatinga 243,000; Gama 131,000; Sobradinho 130,000; Planaltina 150,000; and Ceilândia 350,000.

Administratively, Brasília is only one of the 26 Administrative Regions of the Federal District, which has an area of 5,822 square kilometers. "Asa Sul" (South Wing), "Asa Norte" (North Wing) and the downtown area of "Plano Piloto" (Pilot Plan) are parts of it. A wider definition of Brasília is also used to mean both the "Plano Piloto" and all satellite cities. In this case, all the Administrative Regions of the Federal District, including the satellite towns, would be included.

Brasília is connected by highways and air to all the major cities of Brazil. A subway system covers the South Wing ("Asa Sul") and links to Park Shopping, one of the city's largest shopping malls and a few other termini in the southern and central areas of the city, but does not extend into the northern half. Aside from the subway and the more comprehensive bus-based public transportation system, there is also a railway connection with São Paulo but no passenger trains operate anymore. Distances to Goiânia are: 207 km.; Salvador: 1,531 km.; Belo Horizonte: 716 km.; and São Paulo: 1,015 km.

Brasília is served by the Presidente Juscelino Kubitschek International Airport.


Brasília has a dry winter (mid-May through mid-October) and a wet summer. During the dry season the relative humidity of the air reaches critical levels, particularly during the hottest times of the day.

The average temperature is 20.5°C. The hottest month is September, with an average high of 28°C and an average low of 16ºC. The coolest month is July, with an average high of 25ºC and an average low of 13°C. The monthly difference between the average high is around 3 degrees celsius and the average low 5 degrees celsius.

Maximum temperatures average 28°C. During the dry season, the temperature decreases and can reach daily highs of 13°C in July although maximum averages of 25°C are the norm.


In education Brasília has the best indicators in the country, with a literacy rate of 93.7% according to the Human Development Index. The city has numerous secondary schools and several universities. The most important public university is the University of Brasília (UNB). The major private universities are the Universidade Católica and UniCEUB .


Brasília is the center of the federal government and is the location of executive, legislative, and judicial powers.

A planned city


Brasília is a planned city, and was built in 41 months from 1956 till its inauguration on April 21, 1960. The construction of the city was ordered by President Juscelino Kubitschek. The main urban planner was Lúcio Costa, chief architect of most the public buildings was Oscar Niemeyer, and landscape designer was Roberto Burle Marx . The city plan was based on the ideas of Le Corbusier.

The former capital of Brazil was Rio de Janeiro, from 1763 to 1960 (1763-1815: capital of Colonial Brazil; 1815-1822: capital of Brazilian Reign; 1822-1889: capital of Brazilian Empire; 1889-1960: Federal District), and the resources tended to center around the southeast region of Brazil. While in part the city was built because there was the need for a neutral federal capital, the main reason was to promote the development of Brazil's hinterland and better integrate the entire territory of Brazil (although some say the real reason was to move the government to a place far from the masses). Brasília is approximately at the geographical center of Brazilian territory.

The placement of the Brazil's capital in the interior actually dates to the first republican constitution of 1891, which defined where the federal district should be placed. However, it was not planned until 1922.

According to legend, in 1883 the Italian priest Don Bosco had a prophetic dream in which he described a futuristic city that roughly fit Brasília's location. Today in Brasília there are many references to this educator who founded the Salesian order. One of the main cathedrals carries his name.


The city is designed in the shape of an airplane, despite the fact that Lúcio Costa insists he shaped it like a butterfly. Housing and offices are situated on giant superblocks, everything following the original plan. The plan specifies which zones are residential, which zones are commercial, where industries can settle, where official buildings can be built, the maximum height of buildings, etc.

In the airplane design the wings--North Wing and South Wing--are each roughly 7 km. long. A wide high-speed avenue--the Eixão-- crosses both wings and passes under a central bus station located where the wings meet. The two wings have the residential areas made up of apartment blocks (Super Quadra Sul or Super Quadra Norte) of 6 or 3 storeys. Addresses are practical with 100s and 300s being on one side of the Eixão and 200s and 400s being on the other. A typical Superquadra will have eleven buildings, identified by a letter. Commercial streets separate the blocks and there are schools and churches in areas between them. Green space and trees make the areas very livable. Residents of the city affirm that it is one of the best cities in which to raise children.

There is an avenue between the lake and the wings called either L2 South or North depending on the wing it is located. It has churches, schools, and hospitals. Another avenue called W3 Sul or W3 Norte has mostly shops. Near the bus station there is a banking (Setor Bancário) and hotel sector (Setor Hoteleiro).

Near the banks of the lake there are embassies and recreational clubs and on the shores of the lake individual homes, many of them quite luxurious, have been built.

The fuselage of the plane contains the ministries, government buildings, a futuristic cathedral designed by Oscar Niemeyer, and the senate and chamber of deputies. There is a high television tower which affords spectacular views of the city and the lake.

An enormous park called the Parque da Cidade gives the inhabitants a much-needed space for cycling, jogging, and contact with nature. There is also a zoo near the airport with many animals native to the cerrado area.

One major criticism of Brasília is that it was designed on a non-pedestrian scale. Since the city was developed at the advent of motor transport, pedestrians were not taken much into consideration. In the original plan there were no traffic lights and all cars moved over overpasses, through tunnels and around traffic circles. Today with half a million people living in the Plano Piloto—the Pilot Plan—this plan had to be modified. Distances are staggering and pedestrians have to walk far to move from one point to another. The high speed avenues are especially dangerous to cross. Recently a subway has been built with a line completed for the South Wing and continuing to the major satellite city of Taguatinga. Public transportation is plentiful but the automobile dominates life in Brasília. A popular saying is that the inhabitants are born with wheels instead of feet.

Another criticism of the city is that the poor were forced to move far away to satellite towns—Taguatinga, Gama, Ceilândia, Sobradinho—where they live in conditions that are inferior to those of the Pilot Plan. Some of these cities, like Taguatinga, are now larger than Brasília itself. Buses and a surface rapid transit system connect these cities with the center.

When one talks of Brasília these satellite cities are rarely taken into consideration, but their population far surpasses that of the Pilot Plan.

The city construction did not stop with its inauguration and is still going on according to the original plan which, by law, must be followed. UNESCO has declared Brasília World Heritage Site.

External links

Last updated: 08-16-2005 10:04:12