Beautiful Buildings of Brasilia


The Cathedral of Brasilia
Maturana, via Flickr

What should a capital city look like? Spotlight visits Brazil's capital city of Brasilia.

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Transcript


Voice 1 

Welcome to Spotlight. I’m Liz Waid.

Voice 2 

And Bruce Gulland. Spotlight uses a special English method of broadcasting. It is easier for people to understand no matter where in the world they live.

Voice 1 

A building stands against a bright blue sky. It has 16 columns. These white poles begin in a large circle and curve inwards in the shape of a bell. The columns almost touch each other but then they continue up and out. In the space between the columns, walls of glass make a round shape. The glass is blue, white and green. From the outside, the building looks a bit like open hands that are touching at the wrist. Inside, there are statues of angels. This is the cathedral of Brasilia. This Christian church and many important buildings of Brasilia were all built at the same time. They were designed by one great architect. Today’s Spotlight is on the beautiful and important buildings in Brasilia.

Voice 2 

Every country in the world has a capital city. The capital is where the leaders of the country live and work. Many capital cities are ports on the ocean. In the past, one such city was Rio de Janiero. It was the capital of Brazil. But the port of Rio de Janiero was extremely crowded. There was not enough space for all the people who lived there. And the business of the huge country of Brazil was concentrated in a very small area.

Voice 1 

In 1956 Brazil elected a new president - Juscelino Kubitschek. He wanted to move the capital city. This was not a new idea. People had talked about moving the capital city for many years. The name had even been chosen: Brasilia. President Kubitschek decided it was time to finally build Brasilia. But who would design the important buildings? President Kubitschek wanted Brasilia to be beautiful. He wanted it to be modern. So he chose a skilled and experienced Brazilian architect to build Brasilia. His name was Oscar Niemeyer.

Voice 2 

Niemeyer was born in Rio de Janiero in 1907. He was a well respected architect by the time he was 30 years old. Niemeyer was a great artist. His designs were very different than other buildings at the time. Most other buildings had straight lines up and down. Niemeyer liked to build using half circles and curves. Many of his designs had rounded parts. Niemeyer used these shapes because he saw them in nature. In a book about his life, he explains how he was inspired by the beauty of Brazil:

Voice 3 

“I did not use traditional architecture designed with straight lines and squares. I boldly entered the world of curves by using concrete. This purposeful protest came from the environment in which I lived. My design came from Brazil’s white coasts, its huge mountains, its old traditional churches, and its beautiful women.”

Voice 1 

Niemeyer’s designs for Brasilia were also inspired by the curves of nature. These natural shapes inspired the cathedral from the beginning of this program. To make these shapes Niemeyer used a material called concrete. Concrete is a grey building material. It is a mixture of ground sand and stone mixed with cement. When this mixture is wet it can be poured into a shape. When concrete dries, it is very hard. Using concrete gave Niemeyer a lot of freedom to design and build interesting buildings.

Voice 2 

Niemeyer was very excited to design the main buildings of Brasilia. He saw the new capital as a chance for a fresh beginning for Brazil. He described his ideas for Brasilia’s buildings:

Voice 3 

"When planning the government buildings for Brasilia I tried to push the use of concrete to its limits. I wanted to be as light and detailed as possible. I wanted it to seem as if the buildings barely touched the ground."

Voice 1 

This seems like an impossible thing to do - to make heavy concrete seem like it is floating. But Niemeyer achieved it! Niemeyer designed a building called The Palace of the Dawn. It was a house for Brazil’s president. This building looks like it is floating above the ground. It has curved white points around it. They are very light and beautiful. A lake around the palace reflects these curved shapes.

Voice 2 

Niemeyer also designed the National Congress. This government building has many parts. The biggest part is two tall towers that rise straight up into the air. On one side of this is a white building. It is shaped like a bowl that a person would eat out of. On the other side is a building in the opposite shape. It is a dome, which is rounded on top like a bowl turned upside down. These shapes are not the usual design of government buildings. Niemeyer told the BBC:

Voice 3 

"If you go to see Brasilia, the important thing is this: you may or may not like the buildings, but you could never say you had seen something similar before. Those fine columns, the buildings like a bird’s feathers touching the ground, all that creates an effect of surprise.”

Voice 1

Niemeyer believed that building Brasilia was an important project for the whole country. Building the new city would be a way to give people jobs. It did not take any special education to build with concrete. So, many different people could help build Brasilia. Niemeyer designed and built Brasilia in only four years. Brasilia became the official capital of Brazil in 1960.

Voice 2 

Niemeyer also hoped that his buildings would bring people joy. Niemeyer believed that all people should enjoy the buildings of Brasilia. He believed that architects should inspire and serve other people. He told the Biography Channel website:

Voice 3 

"It is important that the designer think of more than design. The architect's role is to fight for a better world. One where he can produce an architecture that serves everyone not just a group of important people."

Voice 1 

Today, Niemeyer’s buildings do just this. Brasilia is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The United Nations believes that these buildings are important cultural structures. People from all over the world come to Brasilia to see Niemeyer’s buildings. Their beautiful design continues to inspire people – and will continue to do so for many years.

Voice 2 

The writer of this program was Rena Dam. The producer was Nick Mangeolles. The voices you heard were from the United States and the United Kingdom. All quotes were adapted for this program and voiced by Spotlight. You can listen to this program again, and read it, on the internet at www.radioenglish.net. This program is called, ‘Beautiful Buildings of Brasilia.’

Voice 1 

You can also leave your comments on our website and  find us on Facebook - just search for spotlightradio. We hope you can join us again for the next Spotlight program. Goodbye.

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Question:

What does your capital city look like? Is it beautiful?

Comments


Avatar Spotlight
nature187_vn
said on March 12, 2013

I knew a lot separate symbols of every country,example Englanh had clock Big Ben,Pari had tower Eiffel,New York had the sun Goddess statue.And this is the first I hear beatiful bulding of Barasillia…It’s really a great architecture art of the world.

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engwsp
said on July 09, 2014

My name Wesley, I’m brazilian and I have been living in Brasilia for 2 years. First of all I’d like to express gratitude to Spotlight team for the opportunity to improve my English with text about my city. I chatting about my city. Let’s go!

Brasilia also is known for be a green city. The architecture of the city is beautiful and very modern.
Unlike other Brazilian big cities, traffic in Brasilia is not a major problem, although there are some jams during rush hours. Here It´s really uneasy to get the bus, because the urban plan of Brasilia was based on individual motorized transportation.

The “Eixo Monumental” is a central avenue in Brasília’s city design. The avenue is really really big,  as the road consists of two avenues with six lanes on either side; a total of twelve lanes. However, it was in the Guinness Book of Records as having the widest central reservation of a dual carriageway in the world.

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Alyne
said on July 10, 2014

My name is Alyne! I’m living in Brasilia for 9 months. I think this city is beautiful. It’ was designed in the shape of a airplane. When I arrived here, I was absolutely delighted with the amount of green in the city and the architecture. I greatly admire the great architect was Oscar Nieymer. The creativity of he impresses anyone. He did great and beautiful constructions, and today they attract many foreigners. I was also delighted with the streets, because they are wide enough. Fact that makes the traffic flow well. The main tourist points of Brasilia are : Brasilia Cathedra, Esplanada dos Ministério, Television Tower, The Three Powers Square, Paranoá Lake and others .

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thanhdung07121985@gmail.com
said on January 08, 2015

That’s a great and unique architecture I have never known before.I absolutely admire Mr Niemeyer’s talent and creativity.I look the picture at first,I don’t think this is a government buiding.I wish I can come and admire its beauty.Thank for Spotlight widen my knowledge!

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hermit peter
said on July 02, 2017

i feel terrible within one month, for i have lost job. everyday i stay home and practise english, becasue except it i could not find another thing to do. i think more than talk, so i have not much thing communicate with my family, wife, daugher, and parent in law. i don’t contact with my classmate of university or ex-fellow either, i am shabby, lonely. i really know it is not correct, but i don’t like to speak to my family.

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hermit peter
said on July 02, 2017

i was moved when i heard the news of building of brasilia made and designed by Niemeyer. he is a great innovation man, has done things that other people cannot do or afraid to do.

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Honneur
said on June 19, 2018

I live in Brasilia since 1962. This is my City! Brasilia’s buildings realy are very beautyful and seem to be built for aliens, but you don’t must expect they are comfortable for work inside them. Niemeyer was more sculptor then an architet, since you have the idea that the buildings are not built only for to see them, but for to see, work and to live inside them.