For centuries, civilization did not portrude into Brazil far from the coastline. The vast majority of the population was there, trade was there, cities were there. It has always been a dream of the Brazilian government to move the capital inland - thereby gaining more control of the vast interior of the country.
This dream did not become reality until the 1950's, when Brazilian president Kubitchek decided Brazil needed a monumental capital if it was ever to become a world power. As America had Washington DC, Australia had Canberra and Russia had once had St. Petersburg, so too would Brazil have its Brasilia.
Brasilia is the result of a modern urban project designed by Lúcio Costa. If seen from above, the city's pilot plan resembles the shape of an airplane; some people consider that it looks like a bird with open wings. The architect, Lúcio Costa's original urban concept arranged the city in the shape of a cross, to symbolize possession. He planned the city around large avenues which divided it into sectors.
The modernist architecture is stunning. No doubt about it. Many of the buildings set along the central axis are surrreal in their appearance. They are meant to impress. the houses along the wings of the airplane shaped city all look out onto parks, while wide boulevards lead into the center. It was a laboritory for modernist achitects and urban planners, and today the city is a Mecca for anyone interested in architecture.
The architectural dream of the 1950's turned out to be a nightmare for the people that had to populate the city: the civil servants. The government may have moved, all the excitement was left in Rio de Janeiro, the old capital. If you have more than a day to spend in Brasilia, you will notice that the city center is devoid of night- and daylife: it is surprisingly boring. It is as if the architects forgot to build the entertainment.
If you don't have a car, there is nothing more to do than cross the empty plain that is the heart of the city, have dinner at Brasilias only McDonalds and go to your hotel for an early nights' sleep.
However, if you do have access to a car (or speak enough portugese to tell a taxi driver where to go), things are looking more bright. Drive down the wings of the city, and go to one of the smaller neighbourhood centers: that's where you'll find the restaurants, bars, clubs.