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Brasília city profile | city data
  • Brasília is remarkable for the modernist architecture and artistic urban planning of Oscar Niemeyer and Lucio Costa. In 1987 UNESCO declared the whole city a World Heritage Site.
  • The priority for the Secretariat of Culture and Creative Economy of the Federal District is social development.
  • In 2022, Brasília will be the Ibero-American Capital of Culture.

City data: Key facts

  • Geographical area: 5,802 sq. km
  • Total population: 3,015,268
  • GDP (PPP) million: $120,833

Planned since the late 19th century, Brasília’s development only began in the mid-1950s, and it became Brazil’s capital in 1960. People from all over the country came to participate in its construction, creating a diverse and culturally rich workforce, which remains one of the capital’s main assets. Remarkable for the modernist architecture and artistic urban planning of Oscar Niemeyer and Lucio Costa, UNESCO declared the whole city a World Heritage Site in 1987, making it, at 112 square kilometres, the largest area in the world with this designation.

Major cultural landmarks include the ‘Casa do Cantador’ (Singer’s House), created by Oscar Niemeyer to celebrate the northeastern Brazilian community of the Federal District through cultural events, and the ‘Praça dos Orixás’ (Orixás’ Square), located on the shores of Lake Paranoá, which is a centre for Black culture. Sites such as the Indigenous Peoples Memorial, not only mark the city’s colonial past, but encourage policies supporting Indigenous communities.

The City has a reputation for carnival and mass public gatherings, from its Universal New Year’s Eve Celebration to a 2019 major event under the slogan ‘Brasília, capital of all carnivals’. However, the Covid-19 pandemic of 2020 and 2021 put a temporary stop to some of these celebrations. But, as in-person events return in 2022, its long planned year as Ibero-American Capital of Culture is going ahead, bringing new opportunities. In particular, it has collaborated with many of the 133 embassies located in the city, supported by its International Affairs Office. As well as providing a public programme of film, concerts and art to local people, it will receive significant attention across the Ibero-American world. The event will also foster closer collaboration between these Capitals of Culture, which have a shared interest in developing local culture.

Brasília’s cultural planning is led by the Secretariat of Culture and Creative Economy of the Federal District (SECEC), covering both the city and its outlying districts, with a combined population of around three million. Councils of Culture play a significant part in the city: formed with equal participation from government agencies and civil society, they offer a valuable space for creating fair and effective cultural policies. In a city rich with heritage sites, the National Historical and Artistic Heritage Institute (IPHAN-DF) also plays a significant part in protecting tangible and intangible heritage.

The top priority for SECEC is social development, including commissioning artistic activity as a means to reduce poverty. They are also committed to supporting the Creative Economy through economic development and preservation of heritage and promoting cultural goods and services produced in the Federal District locally and globally. SECEC has been inventive in reaching citizens in their everyday lives – for instance through the Book Bag project which has scattered free micro-libraries across low income neighbourhoods, and its Health Concerts programme, which brings musicians into healthcare settings, decreasing stress for patients. These programmes support SECEC’s work to decentralise and democratise access to culture.

Brasilia already has the third largest creative economy in the country, corresponding to 3.1% of GDP. The City aims to develop it further by encouraging entrepreneurship and using education to grow a new generation of artists and art audiences. Three vital policy strands support this work. First, since 1991, 0.3% of the net revenue of the Federal District Government has been given to the Cultural Support Fund (FAC). This supports all kinds of cultural output from films, plays and exhibitions to DVDs, books and workshops. In 2019, the fund assisted cultural agents with R$70 million. Second, private investment in culture is encouraged by the Culture Incentive Law (LIC), which offers tax incentives for businesses that fund art, generating R$11 million in 2019. Third, the Culture Connection Programme promotes the cultural industries of Brasília on an international stage. In 2019 it enabled 491 entrepreneurs to travel to 28 countries. Pivoting to virtual events during the Covid-19 pandemic, it has reverted to a live programme since March 2022.

As Brasilia returns to live events, it is creating a virtuous circle – recognising that international connections created through its creative offer develop the local sector, and bring new opportunities to citizens across all its neighbourhoods.