In the 1950s, Brazil decided it would be a perfectly reasonable idea to move the capital to the center of the country’s interior plateau (read: nowhere). To facilitate this sensible endeavor they enlisted Oscar Niemeyer – an ardent communist and proponent of modern architecture who, alongside his buddy Le Corbusier, had co-designed the UN building in New York – to build a crazy spacepod city in the middle of the planalto.
Brasilia provided Niemeyer the perfect template to test out all the theoretical business he and his modernist colleagues had been cooking up for the past two decades. Together with urban planner Luis Costa, he designed a functionally integrated city full of massive concrete mushroom buildings and swooping aluminum spires and twisty overpasses and skyways and symbolic edifices and designated “sectors” where no one would ever have to watch out for traffic or wait at a stoplight. It’s basically the bastard child of Alphaville and Albany, NY, and to this day remains a benchmark in what we really hope the future is going to look like.
It also sealed his reputation as one of the century’s most influential architects and certainly its most influential Brazilian. Then an anti-communist military junta seized control of the country and kicked him out.