I always thought that Brazil’s military dictatorship detested Brasilia’s cool modernism. (I know that the city fell into disrepair during their 21-year rule.) So, I was surprised to find Niemeyer’s National Congress Building featured on the 1970 cem cruzeiro banknote.

I like the etching of the building in its circle — the artist’s cool precision and duotones highlight the buildings’ forms.

Two years after the return to civilian rule, another Brasília banknote entered circulation. The 1987 note is an homage to President Juscelino Kubitschek, visionary of the new city. Three of the city’s key architectural highlights are featured on the verso.

I particularly like the back of this bill because it’s like a before and after shot of Brasília’s two presidential “palaces.” On the left is the “shack” (the Catetinho) that Niemeyer built in a few days for Kubitschek at the start of the megaproject. On the right is the finished project (and I think, Niemeyer’s masterpiece and arguably the most elegant presidential pile ever), the Palace of the Dawn.

On the front of the bill, in a very nice artistic decision, tiny Palace of the Dawn columns (Niemeyer’s one trademark-able form — it should be his logo) flow down the left side.

Of the two banknotes, I’d say the older note has a cleaner sense of design and looks more modern today. I particularly like the “100” in its shadowbox; it’s almost ’70s German in concept.

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