Old Brazil architecture befitting its history and modern architecture that is only ten years old and is the best in the world. The climate and the landscape serve as the link between new and old in Brazil, as they do everywhere else, and the rule governs this mutual harmony that as long as what is new is good, it will go perfectly with what is old. Not that old and new buildings coexist in Brazil, but both have been built in harmony with their surroundings and thus form an entity. It is the brilliance of the Brazilian nation’s spirit of contribution. The new is as Brazilian as the old. Most people need to be made aware of the significance of both when taken together or separately.

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Rio de Janeiro, Brazil_©Agustin Diaz Gargiulo, unsplash.com

Brazil’s architecture is influenced by Europe, particularly Portugal. It dates back more than 500 years, when Pedro Cabral discovered Brazil in 1500. The first wave of architecture to arrive in Brazil was Portuguese colonial architecture.

During the Empire in the 18th century, Brazil followed European trends and adopted Neoclassical, Baroque, and Gothic Revival architecture. In the 20th century, Brazil experimented with modernist architecture, particularly in Brasilia. The modernist approach was dubbed “minimalism” because it eschewed excessive frills or decoration. Instead, architecture became simple, with clean lines and a functional form. This style gained popularity near the end of World War II when function trumped form. During this time, Oscar Niemeyer, who became and continues to be one of the world’s greatest modernists, began to present a style that would become uniquely Brazilian.

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Pelourinho, Salvador, Brazil_©Marianna Smiley, unsplash.com

History of Brazilian Architecture | Brazil architecture

Throughout history, many factors have influenced Brazilian architecture. European immigrants, in addition to indigenous peoples, contributed ideas and implemented European architectural styles in Brazil. Trained workers and materials were in short supply and had to be replaced, giving Brazilian architecture its distinct flavour. In the newly emerging coastal cities, settlers adopted building trends from their old European homes as a model, which they applied throughout the country. However, more original architecture remained deep within the structure.

From 1530, urban architecture evolved, and cities such as Salvador were established. It included the building of palaces, churches, public buildings, and residences. São Paulo’s metropolis best reflects today’s rapid development of Brazilian architecture. Brazil’s capital, Brasilia, was built from scratch in the twentieth century and held a unique position.

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Moxihatetema Village, Yanomami Indigenous Territory, Brazil_ ©Guilherme Gnipper Trevisan/Hutukara

Indigenous Settlements

Indigenous Brazilians built their impressive settlements without the aid of modern technology. Nature provided building materials such as wood, plants, and fibres, which is why they differed from region to region. Indigenous villages were built in a circle, with individual dwellings clustered around a central square with a fireplace for cooking. The huts were constructed of closed indigenous woods and joined with fibres, leaves, and lianas. The huts stood directly on the ground, on stakes, in flood-prone areas. Indigenous architecture serves a purpose. The buildings aimed to protect against rain, storms, and wild animals.

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The Church Of Santa Rita, Paraty_ ©fotosincriveis.com.br

Colonial Architecture | Brazil architecture

From 1530 to 1830, during Portuguese colonisation until independence, colonial architecture was developed in Brazil. It was built by enslaved hands using local materials and following the European model. Buildings were initially made of wickerwork and pressed earth before stone; mud brick became the accepted building materials accompanied by larger structures. With the arrival of the Jesuits in Brazil, religious structures became the focal point of the settlements. Houses were strictly arranged along parallel streets and kept simple and uniform, according to the Portuguese school. On the other hand, the palace and church ornaments were exquisite and detailed. Stucco facades, pseudo-columns, and balconies with wrought-iron decoration were popular. Verandas were even added to the mansions of wealthy landowners. The church of Santa Rita in Paraty is a stunning example of colonial architecture in Brazil.

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Church of São Francisco de Assis, Ouro Preto, Brazil_ ©smarthistory.org

Baroque Architecture

Many colonial buildings in Brazil are built in the baroque style, particularly the first sacral structures from the second half of the 16th century. Numerous 17th-century facades in the Northeast are based on baroque architecture. The state of Minas Gerais was the epicentre of the Brazilian Baroque in the 18th century. Rich families in these mining towns used their money to improve the architecture. The region’s artists created ornaments, statues, and paintings from wood, soapstone, and gold. This golden age is commemorated by the churches of San Francisco in Ouro Preto and San José del Rei.

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Teatro de Santa Isabel, Recife, Pernambuco, Brazil_©cdn.folhape.com.br

Neoclassical Architecture | Brazil architecture

Neo-classicism dominated Brazilian architecture from 1820 to the end of the nineteenth century. It was created in response to the exuberant ornamentation of the Baroque period, and it captivates the eyes with a simple and elegant design based on Greek and Roman culture. The buildings were built with simple and symmetrical floor plans. There were vaulted ceilings, columns, ledges, and gables. Glass was installed on windows and doors. Subtle colours and noble materials such as marble and oil paintings are associated with this era of Brazilian architecture. The Teatro da Paz in Belem and the Teatro Santa Isabel in Recife are examples of the period.

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Teatro Amazonas,Manaus_©Asafh Kalebe, unsplash.com

Eclectic Architecture

Neoclassicism aimed to bring the most elegance possible to Brazilian architecture, including imported materials and trained European workers. Between the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, a new style emerged on the horizon, which also followed international models. Eclecticism was a synthesis of previous styles and modern engineering achievements, such as wrought iron. The “fine art” subspecies focus on decoration and symmetry. Engineering is more functional, with a focus on structure and economy. The Teatro Amazonas in Manaus and the Estaço da Luz railway station in Sao Paulo are two of Brazil’s many important eclectic buildings.

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Palácio da Alvorada_©Daniel Duarte, unsplash.com

Modern Architecture and the Oscar Niemeyer Phenomenon

Modern architecture, based in particular on reinforced concrete, was created during the Industrial Revolution and the technological achievements of the twentieth century. It peaked in Brazil between 1930 and 1950. Brazilian architecture reflected the social awakening toward an enlightened society. The state played a role in this process by commissioning a slew of new structures meant to symbolise progress. European architects such as Walter Gropius and Le Corbusier had a significant influence until Brazil assembled its modern architects, including the world-famous Oscar Niemeyer.

In the 1960s and 1970s, the ruling politicians used modern architecture to give a face to the country’s renewal and strength. It is how the new capital, Brasilia, with its beautiful modern buildings designed by Oscar Niemeyer, exists. It was on a drawing board and excavated from the jungle soil. Geometric structures devoid of ornaments serve as the foundation of modern Brazilian architecture. The facades clearly distinguish between structure and sealing. This architectural style is distinguished by reinforced concrete columns, glass walls, and the artistic design of walls, furniture, and gardens. Beauty, according to Oscar Niemeyer, is one of the functions of architecture and is best expressed through curves. The Copan apartment building in So Paulo, the government palace (Palácio da Alvorada), and the Supreme Court building in Brazil are all well-known examples.

Hotel Unique, Brazil_©dynamic-media-cdn.tripadvisor.com

Contemporary Architecture | Brazil architecture

In 1980, the free design form of contemporary architecture entered Brazil. Different from previous styles, there are no consistent influences here. Artists pursue their concepts and reinterpret the past with their ideas. What contemporary Brazilian architects have in common is a desire to combine comfort with rational design. The designs emphasise visual stimulation, functionality, and long-term viability. It can be seen in large open spaces and through panoramic windows. Building materials that are natural and organic are used. Ruy Ohtake, who founded the Hotel Unique and the Instituto Tomie Ohtake in Sao Paulo, is the most well-known representative in Brazil.

While the past of Brazilian architecture has been defined in terms of styles, the future indicates limitless possibilities for reinterpreting the legacy of Brazilian master architects for future generations. Whether you are an architect or a curious traveller, there is a lot to see and enjoy in Brazil.


  1. What Makes Brazil’s Architecture Special | Aventura do Brasil [online], (no date). Tours in Brazil from Your Local Travel Experts | Aventura do Brasil. [Viewed 18 December 2022]. Available from: https://www.aventuradobrasil.com/blog/particular-features-of-architecture-in-brazil/
  2. Contributors to Wikimedia projects, (2016). Architecture of Brazil – Wikipedia [online]. Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. [Viewed 18 December 2022]. Available from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Architecture_of_Brazil
  3. Past, Present and Future: Architecture of Brazil [online], (no date). RTF | Rethinking The Future. [Viewed 18 December 2022]. Available from: https://www.re-thinkingthefuture.com/city-and-architecture/a5495-past-present-and-future-architecture-of-brazil/
  4. The Brazilian Style – Architectural Review [online], (no date). Architectural Review. [Viewed 18 December 2022]. Available from: https://www.architectural-review.com/archive/the-brazilian-style

Ranmeet is an aspiring architect who perceives creation to be a powerful skill, "a fascinating possibility evolving from people's uniqueness and perceptions." She firmly believes that she can strive to draw parallels between her imagination and the real world by coming up with her distinctive designs.