The capital of Brazil, the city of Brasilia was inaugurated on 21 April 1960. Situated 933 km north-west of Rio de Janeiro, the former capital, Brasilia, a planned modern city, lies in the Federal District, which covers an area of 5864 km2 in the highlands of central Brazil. Located at the headwaters of the Parana River, Brasilia has an elevation of 900 meters above sea level. It enjoys a dry, mild climate and was formerly a cattle raising and mining area.
The site of Brasilia was selected after an extensive study of the topography and natural resources of the area and construction was commenced in 1957. The airport had first priority as, until proper roads were constructed building materials had to be flown in. The two men largely responsible for the city's design were Lucio Costa, the city planner, and Oscar Niemeyer, the celebrated architect. The layout of the city is based on two intersecting axes- one curved, the other straight. The curved axis is the main transport artery and is largely residential, with blocks of apartment buildings containing shops and essential services. The straight axis, which is 8 km long and 240 km wide, and which is delineated by the Avenida Monumenta, contains administrative, commercial and industrial sections.
The triangular Placa dos Tres Poderes (Plaza of the Three Powers) is situated at one end and contains the executive, legal and judicial branches of government. An artificial lake surrounds the central area and the marble Alvorada Palace, Palace of the Dawn), the president's residence, is situated on its shore. Beside the lake stands a shrine to St John Bosco, an Italian priest who, on 30 August 1883, prophesied that a great civilization would arise near the present site.
The history of Brasilia dates from 1889, when Brazil became a republic. In its new constitution there was a clause recommending the building of a new inland capital to integrate the northern and southern regions of the country and open up the interior, a popular idea since colonial times. President Juscelino Kubitschek (1956-1961) was responsible for instigating the project. The site was selected and a commission was formed to finance and build the new capital city. Although its main function is administrative Brasilia supports some industry, largely concerned with building materials, furnishings, publishing and printing.
The population has increased from 141,700 in 1960 to 2,562,963 in 2010. There is much speculation as to the value of this ultra-modern, expensively built city, but it has definitely played a part in boosting the economy and generating migration into Brazil's interior.