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Brasilia: The President's Palace

Built in only 13 months and completed in June 1958, the Presidenti’s Palace was sited on the shore of a future lake around three miles east of the centre of Brasilia

Originally published in AR February 1959, this piece was republished online in May 2015

The plan consists of three elements: the main rectangular building of two storeys and basement, shaded by a verandah; a circular chapel on the same level as the verandah, linked to it by a bridge across a sunken road ; and a service wing consisting of basement only, at right-angles to the main building and linked to it by an underground passage.

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Part of the entrance front, looking across one of the pools with its bronze sculpture by Alfredo Ceschiatti

The main building has a central entrance hall rising through two floors. This is on the same level as the paved terrace outside, and from it a ramp rises about 4 ft. to the general ground-floor level of the building, which is the same as that of the surrounding verandah. The main suite of reception rooms (part of which again rises through two storeys) runs nearly the full length of the far (north) side of the building, facing the lake, and terminates in a banqueting-room. The kitchen adjoins this on the south side. Occupying the equivalent position to the banqueting-room at the other end of the building is a Ministers’ council-chamber which can be reached by a private entrance at basement level, beneath the bridge leading to the chapel. Also in the basement, which is approached by a road beneath the entrance terrace, are a guardroom, various stores and preparation rooms in connection with the kitchen above, and a private film-theatre. At the end of the service wing, which contains staff living-quarters, is the garage, entered from the far (eastern) side. On the north side of the main building is a swimming-pool. The upper floor of the main building contains the private apartments, divided into two groups which are connected by a gallery overlooking the two-storey hall. The bedrooms of the President’s apartments have a balcony facing north, projecting beneath the roof of the verandah.

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Floor plans of The President’s Palace

The building has a reinforced concrete frame and roof, the latter cantilevered outwards to form the roof of the verandah, which is also supported by the screen of greyish white marble along the north and south sides. The upright members forming the screen curve outwards at the level of the verandah floor, the outer edge of which they support, and then inwards again to the points at which they rest on the ground. Between the arches thus formed the ground continues underneath the verandah; so do the shallow pools of water on either side of the entrance.

The paved terraces and the walls of the chapel are of the same marble as the verandah screen. The chapel is lined internally with gold mosaic. The walls of the main building are of clear glass except at the western end, facing the chapel, where the glass has a greenish colour to counteract the glare from the low evening sun.

The Presidenti’s Palace

Architect: Oscar Niemeyer
Structural Engineer: Joaquim Cardoso
Mechanical Engineer: Afrânio Barbosa da Silva
Interior Designer: Ana Maria Niemeyer Attademo

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