Of the country's wide array of stunning architecture, the modernist school stands head and shoulders above the rest

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There is no shortage of places to visit in Brazil for architecture buffs. Running the gamut from colonial Portuguese churches to futuristic museums, including everything in between, Brazil has so many must-see spots.

Of the country's wide array of stunning architecture, the modernist school stands head and shoulders above the rest. It is in this period that Brazil saw its most celebrated architects rise to the fore, names such as Oscar Niemeyer, Roberto Burle Marx, and Lina Bo Bardi.

Brasília, the planned capital



The epicenter of Brazilian modernism is situated in its capital city, Brasilia. A new city built in the vast plateau of the country's Midwest region, Brasilia was constructed in the 1950s to become the new seat of Brazilian government, moving the capital away from Rio de Janeiro.

Legendary urban planner Lúcio Costa saw his master plan chosen by President Juscelino Kubitschek, and he went about recruiting the best modern architects the country had to offer, among them Niemeyer (who was in charge of most public buildings) and Burle Marx (who was tasked with the landscape design).

Today, Brasilia is a true modernist paradise. The city is intricately planned, arranged upon two axes, the Monumental Axis (east to west), and the Residential Axis (north to south). The layout of the city is such that from above, it resembles a dragonfly. The centerpiece of Brasilia is the stunning Three Powers Plaza, which includes the National Congress, the National Cathedral, the Supreme Federal Court building and the presidential palace, all designed and built by Oscar Niemeyer.


Modernism in São Paulo


Paulo Mendes da Rocha is another of Brazil’s best-known modernist architects, though he has always been overshadowed by Niemeyer worldwide. Today, Brazil’s biggest urban center, São Paulo, owes a massive debt to Mendes da Rocha, who designed many of the city’s most striking buildings. Examples of which are the Brazilian Sculpture Museum (MUBE), a superb instance of Brazil's modernist brutalist school, and the stunning Pinacoteca of the state of São Paulo, completed in 1993.


Modern-day São Paulo also bears the visual hallmark of the world’s most famous Italo-Brazilian architect, the legendary Lina Bo Bardi. The São Paulo Museum of Art (MASP), located on the bustling Paulista Avenue, is one of the city's visual landmarks and was built by Bo Bardi in 1963. Visitors flock from all around to take photographs of the museum, a striking concrete and glass structure, suspended above the pavement below by four imposing pillars.

The legendary landscaping of Burle Marx


Already mentioned is architect and landscaper Roberto Burle Marx, who was notable for his stunning achievement in taking Brazil’s natural and vibrant flora and giving it structure, discipline, and true modernist beauty. Some of his most famous works can be found in the southeastern state of Minas Gerais, particularly in the Pampulha Modern Ensemble in Belo Horizonte (which he designed along with Niemeyer), and the unique open-air modern art gallery of Inhotim, a vast 5,000-acre botanical garden which houses two dozen art pavilions.