Trip Tips: Brazil's retro-futuristic capital hits middle age

Fri May 2, 2014 1:25pm EDT
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By Anthony Boadle

BRASILIA (Reuters) - Brasilia looks like a giant university campus at first sight.

The futuristic capital city built from scratch on savannah ranch land in the middle of nowhere was meant to open up the interior of Brazil and symbolize its rise as an economic power.

Fifty-five years later, Brasilia's modern buildings designed by famed architect Oscar Niemeyer and laid out by urban planner Lúcio Costa are still imposing, an open-air museum on UNESCO's World Heritage list.

Politicians flee for their hometowns on weekends, but the one-time provincial backwater has mushroomed into a bustling capital of 3 million people surrounded by growing high-rise satellite cities and teeming slums.

Its airport is the country's third-busiest, its income per capita the highest in Brazil, as is its divorce rate.

Brasilia boasts Brazil's second-largest and most costly stadium, the 68,000-seat Estádio Nacional, a colonnaded arena that joins Niemeyer's edifices on the capital's civic mall.

The stadium, perhaps destined to become a white elephant since the city has no top-level soccer teams, will host seven games during the World Cup starting in June, including Colombia vs Ivory Coast, Cameroon vs Brazil, Portugal vs Ghana, and a quarter-final.

Brasilia was built for people with wheels and its planners gave little thought to pedestrians. But the city center will be closed off to traffic on game days, allowing soccer fans to walk from the hotel district to the stadium.   Continued...

A view shows the Itamaraty foreign ministry building designed by architect Oscar Niemeyer in Brasilia April 30, 2014.   REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino