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World Cup is Here — Check Out Brazil's Trippiest Buildings

June 12, 2014

Visiting Brazil for the World Cup is a prime opportunity to see the beautifully unusual works of the country’s most famous architect, Oscar Niemeyer. During his legendary eight-decade career, Niemeyer — who died in 2012 at the age of 104! — left his mark all over his native country (and elsewhere; he helped design the United Nations’ New York City headquarters). He’s best known for designing many of the public buildings in Brazil’s capital of Brasilia. But you can see his work throughout several other World Cup host cities, where his uniquely curvy, modernist creations are some of the most prominent landmarks. 

Here’s your guide to Niemeyer’s most awe-inspiring creations.


The Copan Building: The site of the first World Cup match is also home to one of Niemeyer’s most famous buildings. The S-shaped, 38-story Copan in downtown São Paulo features two Niemeyer trademarks: concrete and curves. It’s one of the city’s biggest buildings; it’s so big, it has its own postal code!  More than 4,000 people live in its more than 1,100 apartments — which, understandably, are off-limits to tourists. You can, however, visit the ground floor shopping areas.


The Copan Building in São Paulo. (Photo: Silvio Tanaka/Flickr)

Ibirapuera Park: São Paulo’s answer to New York’s Central Park features several buildings designed by Niemeyer, including the domed Oca, the ramp-shaped Ibirapuera Auditorium, and the Cicillo Matarazzo pavilion.

The Ibirapuera Auditorium. (Photo: Nicolas de Camaret/Flickr)


Pampulha Architectural Complex: The series of buildings was one of Niemeyer’s first notable solo projects in the early 1940s. The buildings included a casino and a restaurant but the true wonder is the Church of St. Francis of Assisi. This parabola-shaped structure is the second-most unique church you’ll ever see (Spoiler Alert: the most unique, another Niemeyer design, is in Brasília). The unconventional design was so controversial in its day, it took the Catholic Church more than 16 years to finally consecrate it.

Church of St. Francis of Assisi. (Photo: Lucas/Flickr)


Palácio do Planalto: As you wander Brazil’s capital during the World Cup, Niemeyer’s work will be as inescapable as soccer fans.  In the mid-1950s, Niemeyer was asked to design the public buildings in the planned city. What he came up with are some of the most interesting, modern-looking municipal buildings in the world. At the top of that list: the Palácio do Planalto, the seat of the Brazilian Government and the Brazilian president’s official workplace.

The Palácio do Planalto. (Photo: Richard Nakamura/Flickr)

Cathedral of Brasília:This is the most unique church you’ll ever see. The Cathedral of Brasília, dedicated in 1970 after 12 years of construction, has an interior every bit as unconventional as its concrete and glass exterior. Inside you’ll find three angel sculptures suspended by steel cables. 

The Cathedral of Brasília. (Photo: Fabio Mascarenhas/Flickr)

Claudio Santoro National Theatre: This pyramid-shaped structure is Brasília’s largest Niemeyer-designed building devoted to the arts.


Claudio Santoro National Theatre. (Photo: Edward Stojakovic/Flickr)

National Museum: This museum was inaugurated in 2006 on Niemeyer’s 99th birthday. The dome’s radius is more than 80 feet and the museum has more than 47,000 square-feet of exhibition space.

The National Museum. (Photo: Thinkstock)


Niterói Contemporary Art Museum: Just before or just after catching the World Cup action in Niemeyer’s birth city of Rio, stop by the nearby city of Niterói to gaze upon its Contemporary Art Museum. Whether you go inside or not, this spaceship-looking marvel is a perfect selfie backdrop.


Niterói Contemporary Art Museum. (Photo: marcusrg/Flickr)


Oscar Niemeyer Museum: If you enjoyed your World Cup/Niemeyer tour, this is THE place to visit when the soccer action shifts to Curitiba. This museum (nicknamed “The Eye” for obvious reasons) features art from artists from all over the world, not to mention that of the architectural giant whose name it bears.  

Oscar Niemeyer Museum. (Photo: Ricardo Mendonça Ferreira/Flickr)

Want more like this? Follow us on Facebook and Twitter and keep coming back every day for Yahoo Travel’s series on the #WorldCup, with guides to the host cities, advice on safety, and great tips and insider information you won’t find anywhere else. You can also check out all our World Cup coverage here.