Brasília: Building a city from scratch

A couple of weeks ago, Patrick Collison's page collecting ambitious projects completed in a short period of time made the rounds on Twitter. Having been born in Brazil, an example came to mind that he hadn't included - Brasília:

On 15th of March, 1956, Brazilian President Kubitschek formed Novacap, a state owned company with renowned architect Oscar Niemeyer as the technical director, tasked with building the new capital, Brasília. At 12:00am on April 21st, 41 months later, Brasília was inaugurated in a series of ceremonies held by the President.

Granted, there was still construction of government buildings and major infrastructure until around 1970, when the city became more of a capital in earnest. Regardless, I think the construction of Brasília captures the same ambition, resolve and efficiency of the projects you highlighted.

The summary above was written by yours truly, but the wiki on the city's history is worth a read: Brasilia. Some other interesting aspects about the city:

  • Although the capital was in Rio de Janeiro at the time, Brazil's first republican constitution, had already designated, in 1891, a location for the longterm capital: a 14,400km2 region in the heart of the country.
  • The capital was chosen to be placed in an uninhabited central region of the country in order to provide better national security (further from the coasts), and to encourage development and distribution of wealth away from the coast where all the economic activity tended to reside.
  • Originally designed to resemble the shape of a cross, the city is ended up being shaped like a plane, with neighbourhoods named after it ("North Wing", "South Wing").
  • The documentary Urbanized does a good job of discussing how Brasilia was an experiment in Urbanism at the time, which has mostly failed; having been designed with a top-down approach focusing on cars instead of allowing the city to naturally develop around its inhabitants.