From 13 to 27 July, in Brasilia, the national museum hosted an exhibition on the history of the federal capital, from the idealization of the city to its occupation. The project is the result of a partnership between the French Embassy, the federal district Public Archives, the Alliance Française in Brasilia and AFD.

28 images to reconstitute the history of the creation of a city. The current capital of Brazil, Brasilia, was inaugurated on 21 April 1960. The construction site, which started in 1956, lasted 1,000 days. 1,000 days reconstituted in an original exhibition which, from 13 to 27 July, retraced the outlines of the giant construction site.

With 15 totems lit up by solar energy, the initiative located in front of the Brazilian capital’s Museum of the Republic aimed to disseminate the federal district’s collection of public archives on the construction of Brasilia and immerse the public in this piece of history. From the first expedition to demarcate the territory of the federal district and the start of the construction of its monuments, to the occupation of the city by its residents, the exhibition reconstitutes each stage of the birth of the Brazilian capital.

Brasilia was designed by the architect Oscar Niemeyer and the urban planner Lucio Costa and built to attract economic activity towards the interior of the country and replace Rio as the capital. It has since become the symbol of modern Brazilian architecture.

This project, which was organized on the initiative of the French Embassy, the Federal District Public Archives, the Alliance Française in Brasilia and AFD, also aimed to celebrate the partnership between France and Brazil. The exhibition was curated by AFD’s teams and the captions were written in partnership with the federal district Public Archives and with the professor Dr. Maribel Aliaga from the Faculty of Architecture and Urban Planning of the University of Brasilia (UnB).

Exhibition on the history of Brasilia
Aerial view of the central area of the pilot plan, Brasilia
For Lúcio Costa, a Brazilian urban architect and designer of Brasilia, the new capital had to be “monumental”. However, monumental “not in an ostentatious way but in a palpable way, so to speak, aware of what it represents and means. A city planned for orderly and efficient work, but at the same time pleasant to live in, inviting dreams and intellectual speculation, able, over time, to become not only the center of the government and administration, but also one of the country’s greatest cultural centers”.
The Candangos, the pioneering workers during the construction of Brasilia
The pioneering workers during the construction of Brasilia were nicknamed the “Candangos”. They came from all over the country looking for a job on this huge construction site and arrived in the “free city”. Now called Núcleo Bandeirante, the free city was built to house the workers during the construction. The plots were given free of charge. Everything had to be built using wood as once Brasilia was completed, the area was to be completely razed to the ground.
The cathedral of Brasilia
The metropolitan cathedral designed by the Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer was completed after twelve years of works and inaugurated on 31 May 1970. It is built on sixteen concrete columns. In 1987, the stained-glass windows by the French-Brazilian artist Marianne Peretti, the only woman in Niemeyer’s team during the construction of Brasilia, were added.
The TV Tower of Brasilia
This tower was designed by the urban planner Lúcio Costa, who was inspired by the Eiffel Tower in Paris. From the platform, it is possible to look at the urban and architectural project of the capital.
Brasilia bus station
The bus station is the point zero of the city, where the North/South road and the monumental East/West road intersect. The station is used by the residents of the Pilot Plan and satellite towns and is the capital’s bridging point.
Elephant, Brasilia's public zoo, Brasilia: From building to daily life
Brasilia’s zoo was inaugurated on 6 December 1957, even before the end of the construction of the capital. The elephant Nely, a present from the Indian Embassy, was the second animal registered at the zoo. Its arrival coincided with the inauguration of the zoo, in the presence of the civilian and military authorities.
Visite du ministre français Jean-Yves Le Drian © AFD
Visit by the French Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian © AFD

The exhibition was a resounding success: between 700 and 1,000 visitors thronged every day to discover or rediscover the history of this capital which was built in just a few years and listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1987.

During his visit to Brazil from 29 to 31 July 2019, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Jean-Yves Le Drian, also went to the exhibition site, sixty years after the visit to Brasilia by another French minister, André Malraux. At the time, Malraux had declared: “During their development, great nations have often found their symbol, and Brasilia is undoubtedly this kind of symbol”.