In Brazil’s capital, modernist buildings act as time capsules that show what we once thought the future would look like.
“Brasília is a living museum for monuments and architecture,” says photographer Daniel Shea, who traveled from his home in New York City to central Brazil to shoot the iconic modernist city. “The buildings retain their function, but the city is really a historical site.”
From the air, Brasília looks like a bird or an airplane—a city poised to take flight into the future. It was designed and built to do just that. In the late 1950s, Brazilian president Juscelino Kubitschek envisioned a new federal capital in the country’s rural interior, one that would leave behind the colonial baggage of the old capital, Rio de Janeiro. He held a competition, and an international jury selected Brazil’s brightest talents to conceive not just individual buildings, but the workings of an entire city. His forward-looking utopian dream was inaugurated in 1960, and today Brasília is known as an unusually intact time capsule of what we used to think of as the future.