Building Brasilia Photographed by Marcel Gautherot

French photographer Marcel Gautherot’s images of Brasilia document the creation of this remarkable city in the 1950s

Brasília 1958. Image by Marcel Gautherot
Palácio do Congresso Nacional. Brasília, 1960. Foto: Marcel Gautherot/IMS

Gautherot lived and worked in Brazil spending much of his life exploring the country photographing its landscapes, architecture and people. In his lifetime he amassed a collection of 25 thousand images, 3000 of which document the construction of Brasilia.

Brasilia’s unique heritage of modernist architecture is in part down to its bold execution at a time when many developing countries sought to encompass new ideas in civic architecture. Designed by Lúcio Costa and Oscar Niemeyer in 1956, the city was intended to represent a new democratic modernism. Gautherot’s images capture this sense of innovation and rebirth and offer an incredible record of how modernist architecture has come to represent an ideological language for the 20th century.

Gautherot’s images were acquired by the Instituto Moreira Salles in Rio de Janeiro in 1999 and in part have been published in two books, Marcel Gautherot: The Monograph and Building Brasilia by Kenneth Frampton.

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Palácio do Congresso Nacional. Brasília, 1958. Foto: Marcel Gautherot/IMS
Palácio do Congresso Nacional. Brasília, 1958. Foto: Marcel Gautherot/IMS

Gautherot’s archive of over 3000 photos are a record of the creation of Brasilia and the transformation of a dusty grassland into a national capital.

A 30 year old French immigrant, he photographed the people and places of Brazil, the country that would become his home for the rest of his life. His ability to record everyday life, set against the places and the architecture of Brazil make his archive of over 25000 images a unique snapshot of 20th century life in this country.