chapter  4
Brasilia – The Project of Brasilia
Pages 16

Hidden beneath Brasilia’s most civic of public spaces, the Praça do Três

Poderes, there is an underground gallery called Espaço Lucio Costa. It was

designed by Oscar Niemeyer in 1989 in order to memorialize both the winning

entry of the 1957 design competition for Brazil’s new capital and its author,

Lucio Costa. Niemeyer suggested this space in response to the minister of

culture’s inquiry about eventual locations where a 5050 model of Brasilia

could be housed.1 The model had been built as an exact replica of what the city

looked like in 1987 when UNESCO declared it a World Heritage Site. The

search for its permanent residency thus became the pretext for Niemeyer to

find a solution that would give Costa “the tribute owed to him by the city” and

be so discrete as to neither offend his modesty nor “inconveniently” compete

with the Plaza’s principal monuments.1 Niemeyer’s proposal consisted of a

letter and a few sketches, all describing an underground space the function of

which was to house the model, and the project with which the competition

was won, including an illustrated text and a master plan. The subterranean

room is accessed through a wide stairway, the opening of which is concealed

behind by a low U-shaped bench. A marble plaque marks the entrance and ded-

icates the space to “Lucio Costa, Creator of Brasilia’s Master Plan.” One is

subsequently led to a somber room almost entirely occupied by the model.