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Brazilian colonial architecture was derived from Portugal, with adaptations demanded by the tropical climate. The more enduring examples of this very attractive style are to be found in the churches and monasteries of the older cities, but most spectacularly in Ouro Preto, the first capital of the province of Minas Gerais. This city has been meticulously restored and protected as part of Brazil's heritage and it is now on UNESCO's World Heritage List.
From the second half of the 19th century to the beginning of this century Brazilian architects were under a pervasive French influence. Since then, without losing contact with innovators in other countries, such as Le Corbusier in France and Frank Lloyd Wright in the U.S., architecture in Brazil has evolved its own style. It now attracts worldwide attention as one of the country's most characteristic art forms.
The volume and pace of urban expansion during the last 30 years have provided exceptional opportunities for combining social and functional needs with artistic expression. The result has been not only the burgeoning of many fine buildings, but also the birth of entire suburbs and completely new cities.
Good examples of modern Brazilian architecture from its early period in the 1940's are: the passenger terminal at Santos Dumont Airport by the Roberto brothers and the Ministry of Education, both in Rio de Janeiro; the low-cost apartment buildings at Pedregulho outside Rio by Affonso Reidy; the Museum of Modern Art in São Paulo; and the wave-shaped Church of Pampulha in Belo Horizonte designed by Oscar Niemeyer. Later examples of modern Brazilian architecture are much more numerous; some of the most distinguished are: Reidy's Museum of Modern Art in Rio de Janeiro, completed in the 1950's; Vilanova Artigas' Faculty of Architecture in São Paulo (1960's); Olavo Redig de Campos' Brazilian Embassy in Washington, D.C. (1970's); Lina Bo Bardi's Pompéia Cultural Center, São Paulo (1980's); and Luis Filgueiras Lima's Sarah Kubitschek Hospital in Salvador, Bahia (1990's).
Of course, the best known example of modern Brazilian architecture is the new capital city of Brasília, where imagination was given full flight. The urban plan conceived by Lúcio Costa and the design of the main public buildings by architect Oscar Niemeyer have become landmarks in the realm of architecture on a massive scale.
Especially noteworthy are Niemeyer's Palácio ltamaraty (home of Brazil's Ministry of External Relations) with its soaring concrete arches and water garden, and Brasília's Cathedral (considered by many to be Niemeyer's finest achievement) with its clasped fingers of concrete reaching prayerfully to the sky. (Niemeyer was also a participant in the group of architects who designed the United Nations building in New York City and the headquarters building of the Communist Party in Paris).
New buildings alone cannot create beautiful and harmonious urban environments. Alongside the bold new architectural concepts, a school of landscape designers headed by Roberto Burle Marx has arisen in Brazil to balance the images of concrete and glass structures with the welcoming greenery of gardens and parks. As a result of his work in many Brazilian cities, Burle Marx has acquired an international reputation. Examples of his work are now to be found in public and private gardens and parks in the Americas and in Europe.
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