Spotlight: Lúcio Costa

Spotlight: Lúcio Costa

Brazilian planner, preservationist and modernist thinker Lúcio Costa (27 Feburary 1902 – 13 June 1998) is best known for his 1957 plan of Brasília that shaped the Brazilian capital into a monument to utopian modernism. A resolute and often controversial figure in the Brazilian establishment, Costa’s contributions to Brazilian architecture helped to shape the distinctive modernism that was practically Brazil’s official style until the 1980s.

Spotlight: Lúcio Costa - More Images+ 3

Lúcio Costa. Image via

Educated internationally, Costa graduated from the Escola Nacional de Belas Artes at the age of 22 and, only 6 years later, returned in a partnership to direct the school. While he did not prove popular (and was forced out by the collective will of both students and faculty) his style of modernism ultimately did. Working with a team of young Brazilian architects and Le Corbusier, his Ministry of Education and Health in Rio de Janeiro became a concrete statement of the path Brazil would take in the 20th century. It was also this project that helped propel Oscar Niemeyer, Brazil's titan of modernism, from an intern to the architect who would later take on the monumental buildings of Costa’s Brasília plan.

Costa's Gustavo Capanema Palace (also known as the Ministry of Education and Health) in Rio de Janeiro. Image © Marina de Holanda

With Niemeyer designing, in quick succession, the institutions of the state, Costa was free to concentrate solely on the urban plan of the city. Although Niemeyer's buildings became Brasília's face, Costa was the one who gave the city its utopian soul, designing the residential areas in forested 'superblocks' that were equipped with leisure and sports facilities accompanied by small shopping areas for residents, luxury and affordable alike. Costa designed the quintessential modernist city and one that has resonated through generations of urban planners, and Costa himself—although later facing fierce criticism—never stopped defending Brasília's design.

The original pilot plan. Image Courtesy of O Espaço Lúcio Costa
A model of the planned Brasília. Image Courtesy of O Espaço Lúcio Costa

Costa joined the Brazilian Historic and Artistic Heritage Institute in 1937 and later led the organisation until his retirement, leading a charge to document architectural heritage in Brazil while using his influence to decide exactly which heritage to preserve—and which to remove, leading to the loss of a great deal of non-Portugese history from Brazil’s built environment at the hands of him and many who were influenced by him.

The Asa Sul district of Brasília. Image Courtesy of Portal da Copa
Facade of the Gustavo Capanema Palace. Image © Imagens AMB
About this author
Cite: Dario Goodwin. "Spotlight: Lúcio Costa" 27 Feb 2018. ArchDaily. Accessed . <> ISSN 0719-8884

The monumental axis central to Costa's plan. Image © <a href=''>Wikimedia user Limongi</a> Licensed under <a href=''>CC BY 3.0</a>

聚焦:Lúcio Costa

You've started following your first account!

Did you know?

You'll now receive updates based on what you follow! Personalize your stream and start following your favorite authors, offices and users.