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Brasilia, a capital created ex nihilo in the centre of the country in 1956, was a landmark in the history of town planning. Urban planner Lucio Costa and architect Oscar Niemeyer intended that every element – from the layout of the residential and administrative districts (often compared to the shape of a bird in flight) to the symmetry of the buildings themselves – should be in harmony with the city’s overall design. The official buildings, in particular, are innovative and imaginative.

Description is available under license CC-BY-SA IGO 3.0


Brasília, capitale créée ex nihilo au centre du pays en 1956-1960, a été un événement majeur dans l’histoire de l’urbanisme. L’urbaniste Lucio Costa et l’architecte Oscar Niemeyer ont voulu que tout, depuis le plan général des quartiers administratifs et résidentiels – souvent comparé à la forme d’un oiseau – jusqu’à la symétrie des bâtiments eux-mêmes, reflète la conception harmonieuse de la ville dont les bâtiments officiels frappent par leur aspect novateur.

Description is available under license CC-BY-SA IGO 3.0


تشكّلت مدينة برازيليا، العاصمة المؤسسة من العدم في وسط البلاد بين الأعوام 1956-1960، حدثاً مفصلياً في تاريخ التمدن البرازيلي. وحرص كلّ من المهندس المديني لوسيو كوستا والمهندس المعماري أوسكار نايميير على أن يكون كلّ شيء في تلك المدينة، بدءاً بالتصميم العام للأحياء الإدارية والسكنية-الذي غالباً ما يتم تشبيهه بشكل الطائر- وصولاً إلى تماثل الأبنية نفسها، مرآةً للتصميم المتناغم للمدينة التي تلفت الأنظار من خلال المظهر المبتكر لأبنيتها الرسمية.

source: UNESCO/ERI
Description is available under license CC-BY-SA IGO 3.0


始建于1956年的巴西利亚位于巴西的中心,是城市规划史上的里程碑。城市规划师卢西奥·科斯塔(Lucio Costa)和建筑师奥斯卡·尼迈尔(Oscar Niemeyer)认为城市中的一切元素都应该与城市的整体设计相吻合,巴西利亚城的城市布局常常被形容为“飞翔的鸟”,因为城市的行政管理区域和居民住宅区域布局对称,同时城中的每个建筑物也都是对称的,特别是政府办公楼,体现了极强的创新精神和丰富的想象力。

source: UNESCO/ERI
Description is available under license CC-BY-SA IGO 3.0

Город Бразилиа

Бразилиа, столица, основанная на ранее пустовавшем месте в самом центре страны в 1956 г., стала значимым объектом в истории градостроительства. Специалист по городскому планированию Люсиу Коста и архитектор Оскар Нимейер считали, что каждый элемент, начиная от планировки жилых и административных районов, и заканчивая симметричным решением самих зданий, должен находиться в гармонии с общим проектным замыслом города (своей планировкой город напоминает летящую птицу). Впечатляет новаторская архитектура официальных построек столицы.

source: UNESCO/ERI
Description is available under license CC-BY-SA IGO 3.0


Construida ex nihilo en el centro del paí­s entre 1956 y 1960, Brasilia es un hito de gran importancia en la historia del urbanismo. El propósito de sus creadores, el urbanista Lucio Costa y el arquitecto Oscar Niemeyer, fue que todo reflejara una concepto armonioso de la ciudad, desde el trazado de los barrios administrativos y residenciales –comparado a menudo con la silueta de un pí¡jaro– hasta la simetrí­a de las construcciones. Los edificios públicos asombran por su aspecto audaz e innovador.

source: UNESCO/ERI
Description is available under license CC-BY-SA IGO 3.0


source: NFUAJ


Brasilia is een hoofdstad die in 1956 uit het niets werd opgebouwd in het midden van het land. Het was een mijlpaal in de geschiedenis van de stedenbouw: op de stad zijn de 20e-eeuwse principes van stedenbouwkunde – van Le Corbusier – toegepast, wat zelden gedaan is op hoofdstedelijke schaal. Volgens stedenbouwkundige Lucio Costa en architect Oscar Niemeyer moest elk element in harmonie zijn met het algemene stadsontwerp; van het ontwerp van de woon- en werkgebieden (in de vorm van een vogel in vlucht) tot de symmetrie van de gebouwen zelf. Met name de regeringsgebouwen zijn innovatief en spreken tot de verbeelding.

Source: unesco.nl

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Brasilia (Brazil) © UNESCO
Outstanding Universal Value

Brief synthesis

Laid out along a monumental east-west axis, crossed by a north-south axis curved to follow the topography as a transportation thoroughfare, Brasilia is a definitive example of 20th century modernist urbanism. Created as the Brazilian capital in the central western part of the country from 1956 to 1960 as part of President Juscelino Kubitschek’s national modernization project, the city brought together ideas of grand administrative centres and public spaces with new ideas of urban living as promoted by Le Corbusier in six storey housing blocks (quadras) supported on pylons which allowed the landscape to flow beneath and around them. The city’s planning is noteworthy for the remarkable congruence of Lucio Costa’s urban design (the ‘Plano Piloto’) and Oscar Niemeyer’s architectural creations, most powerfully reflected in the intersection between the monumental and thoroughfare axes, which stands as the determining factor of the city’s urban scheme and underscores the representative character of Three Powers Square (Praça dos Três Poderes) and the Esplanade of the Ministries (Esplanada dos Ministérios), also manifest in the geometry of the National Congress and in the new approach to urban living embodied in the Neighborhood Units (Unidade de Vizinhança) and their corresponding Superblocks (Superquadras). 

Criterion (i): Brasilia is a singular artistic achievement, a prime creation of the human genius, representing, on an urban scale, the living expression of the principles and ideals advanced by the Modernist Movement and effectively embodied in the Tropics through the urban and architectural planning of Lucio Costa and Oscar Niemeyer. The Brazilian experience is notable for the grandiosity of the project, one which not only brought to a definitive close a particular historical epoch, but which was closely tied to an ambitious development strategy and to a process of national self-affirmation before the world. 

Criterion (iv): Brasilia is a unique example of urban planning brought to fruition in the 20th century, an expression of the urban principles of the Modernist Movement as set out in the 1943 Athens Charter, in Le Corbusier’s 1946 treatise How to Conceive Urbanism, and in the architectural designs of Oscar Niemeyer, including the buildijngs of the three powers (Presidential Palace, Supreme Court and Congress with its twin highrise buildings flanked by the cupola of the Senate building and by the inverted one of the House of Representatives), and the Cathedral with its 16 parabaloids 40 metres in height, the Pantheon of Juscelino Kubitschek and the National Theatre. 


The urban framework of Brasilia includes all of the elements required to demonstrate outstanding universal value. A city that is at once urbs and civitas, Brasilia has preserved its original guiding principles intact, as reflected in the protection of its urban scales, legally protected by local and federal organisms of government of the country. 

The city finds itself today in the midst of a process of consolidation, in accordance with its dual function as city and capital, through the continuing implementation of new urban services and structures. The World Heritage property is vulnerable to urban development pressure including increased traffic and public transport requirements. The city’s various sectors, as laid out in the initial plan, are now in the process of being supplemented and, indeed, concluded, in line with the original urban principles. These changes in no way jeopardize the singular and outstanding value of Lucio Costa’s Pilot Project (Plano Piloto), which remains wholly preserved, both physically and symbolically. 

It is possible based on the still undeveloped areas around Brasilia, the surrounding green spaces, and the location’s topography, to clearly distinguish the city’s limits from the territorial expanse in which it was introduced, singular attributes that enable analysis of the site without losing any of the basic information critical to transmitting its continued Outstanding Universal Value. 


The authenticity of Brasilia is guaranteed through maintenance of its architecture, urban design, and landscapes, all of which represent a new approach to urban living, reaffirmed by Lucio Costa and Oscar Niemeyer on the basis of the Modernist Movement’s principles for 20th century architecture and urbanism. 

The primary attributes of the Pilot Project (Plano Piloto) which converge to attribute universal and outstanding value to Brasilia include: the intersection of two axes and the hierarchical distribution of the road system, the division of the city into sectors with their respective characteristics and end uses, the network of open and green spaces, the Esplanade of the Ministries and representative structures that make up the Monumental Axis (Eixo Monumental), the superblocks organized on the basis of neighborhood units, and, lastly, Oscar Niemeyer’s architectural designs of the key representative buildings. 

These attributes are best understood on the basis of the four scales identified by Lucio Costa at the time of Brasilia’s designation as a heritage site and preserved as the guiding benchmarks of the Pilot Project (Plano Piloto)’s original design: a monumental scale, which confers on Brasilia its status as a capital city in which the nation’s administrative functions are performed; a residential scale, which embodies a new approach to living, centered on the Thoroughfare Axis (Eixo Rodoviário) along which the Neighborhood Units are distributed and divided into a North and South Wing (Asa Norte and Asa Sul); a social scale, situated at the intersection of the two axes – Monumental and Thoroughfare – where the bank, hotel, business, and service sectors converge to form the city’s central section; and a bucolic scale, which permeates the other three and is composed of large open and green spaces that provide the city with its unique city-park aspect. 

Protection and management requirements 

Brasilia’s importance was recognized from the time of its conception. In 1960, prior to the new capital’s inauguration, the Organic Law of the Federal District (Lei Orgânica do Distrito Federal) provided that any proposed changes to the Pilot Project (Plano Piloto) must be submitted to the Federal Senate for review. The question only took on relevance beginning in the early 1980s with the city’s rapid growth. In 1981, the Working Group for the Preservation of the Historical, Cultural, and Natural Heritage of Brasilia  (Grupo de Trabalho para Preservação do Patrimônio Histórico, Cultural e Natural de Brasília) was established. Composed of representatives of the National Pro-Memory Foundation (Fundação Nacional Pró-Memória), currently the National Institute of Historical and Artistic Heritage (Instituto Nacional de Patrimônio Histórico e Artístico – IPHAN), the Federal District Government (GDF), and the University of Brasilia (UnB), the entity’s studies were critical to Brasilia’s inclusion on UNESCO’s List of World Heritage Sites in 1987, providing the basis for the technical dossier which accompanied the city’s candidacy. 

At the time, primary responsibility for preserving the site resided with the Secretary of Culture of the GDF, through its Department of Historical and Artistic Heritage (Departamento de Patrimônio Histórico e Artístico – DePHA). This determination was founded on Decree 10829/GDF of October 14, 1987, a legislative instrument submitted by the Brazilian Government to the World Heritage Committee to serve as a binding guarantee for the protection of Brasilia which remains in force to this day. Further, in response to an explicit request from UNESCO that same year the GDF decreed the protection of the city’s four scales, while also delimiting the 120 square kilometer area on which the 1990 federal designation of Brasilia as a historical site was founded. 

In 1990, the Urban Framework of Brasilia was officially recognized as a national historical heritage site. The designation was formally enacted through SPHAN/PróMemória Directive 04/90, subsequently replaced by IPHAN Directive 314/92, which remains in force.

Currently, the Federal District Government and the Federal Government exercise shared responsibility for the management and protection of Brasilia through the Secretariat of State for Urban and Housing Development (Secretaria de Estado de Desenvolvimento Urbano e Habitação – SEDHAB) and the Federal District Superintendence of the National Institute of Historical and Artistic Heritage (Instituto do Patrimônio Histórico e Artístico Nacional – IPHAN), respectively. 

The challenge of preserving Brasilia requires assessing present-day issues and demands relating to the city based on its singular urban plan. This necessitates adopting a forward-looking vision for the city, which protects its Outstanding Universal Value while enabling sustainability. 

Protection of the Urban Framework of Brasilia is governed by a series of legal instruments intended to ensure its preservation on three operational levels: local, federal, and global. At the local level, a set normative instruments consisting of specific laws aimed at protecting the heritage site as well as highly complex body of technical and operational urban legislation based on the Federal District’s Urban and Land Settlement Policy have been put in place. 

Some of the principal sources of pressure exerted on the heritage site include real estate development, the illegal occupation of public areas and green spaces, the implementation of activities inconsistent with the end use of particular sectors, the encroachment of private property on the lakefront, increased urban traffic, and inadequate public transportation associated with social-spatial segregation across the metropolitan region. Add to this the urban dynamic of surrounding areas in connection with the Federal District’s outward push, which has placed intense pressure on the Pilot Project (Plano Piloto), requiring that special attention be devoted to the city’s urban landscape as well as the function and use of the corresponding spaces, where the vast majority of public services, jobs, and regional investments are concentrated but less than 10% (9.6%) of the Federal District’s population resides. 

To address these challenges and recognizing that the preservation and protection of the Urban Framework of Brasilia cannot be disassociated from the city’s urban development, an Urban Framework Preservation Plan for Brasilia (Plano de Preservação do Conjunto Urbanístico de Brasília – PPCUB) will be the primary instrument for planning, preserving, and managing the protected area and for coordinating the measures and agents involved in Brasilia’s urban development.