Modernist masterwork Brasilia turns 60

The capital of Brazil was inaugurated on 21 April 1960, following a four-year construction period and containing landmark works by a roaster of Brazilian modernists; this year, Brasilia celebrates its 60th anniversary. 

Grey dome with slope around
Brasilia was inaugurated on 21 April 1960, making this spring the Brazilian capital's 60s anniversary
(Image credit: Paul Clemence)

Few places in the world offer such an expansive, extraordinary composition of Modernist architecture as the Brazilian capital. Part of a handful of Modernist clusters around the world – such as, for example, Le Corbusier's Chandigarh in India – Brasilia combines the gravitas, drama and scale of the International Style with the glamour and power of a country's beating heart, conceived right from the start as the embodiment of modern Brazil. 

This year, Brasilia, which was created from scratch, celebrates its 60th anniversary, having been inaugurated on the 21 April 1960, following nearly four years of construction in the heart of the South American country. Featuring a grand urban plan by Lúcio Costa, Oscar Niemeyer as its iconic principle architect and Roberto Burle Marx as the landscape designer, the majestic city also includes works by lesser known internationally – yet no less important – modernists, such as João Filgueiras Lima (Lelé) and Ícaro Castro Mello. 

Wide shot of dome

(Image credit: Paul Clemence)

Today, the city remains the country's administrative centre, composed around a monumental axis, in a monumental civic scale. The National Congress and the Supreme Federal Court are there, as well as the official residence of the President of Brazil.  

Now, Brasilia is a listed UNESCO World Heritage Site and photographer Paul Clemence created and shared with us a series capturing the beauty of Brasilia's timeless classics, such as the National Congress (1958), the Palace of Justice (1962) and the Metropolitan Cathedral (1959) – all sleek lines, sweeping curves and clean contrasts, against the blue, sunny South American skies.

Close up of building

(Image credit: Paul Clemence)

Metal structure

(Image credit: Paul Clemence)

Long building next to body of water

(Image credit: Paul Clemence)

Top of pointed building

(Image credit: Paul Clemence)

Ellie Stathaki is the Architecture & Environment Director at Wallpaper*. She trained as an architect at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki in Greece and studied architectural history at the Bartlett in London. Now an established journalist, she has been a member of the Wallpaper* team since 2006, visiting buildings across the globe and interviewing leading architects such as Tadao Ando and Rem Koolhaas. Ellie has also taken part in judging panels, moderated events, curated shows and contributed in books, such as The Contemporary House (Thames & Hudson, 2018), Glenn Sestig Architecture Diary (2020) and House London (2022).

With contributions from