Most visitors to Brasilia stay along the Monumental Axis, with its wide boulevards of roaring traffic, and conclude that the city is a noisy and unwelcoming place for pedestrians. However, those who venture into Brasilia’s master-planned “superblocks” will find leafy parks, tranquil sidewalks, and quirky local businesses. One such establishment is the newsstand serving block SQS 108.
When Brasilia was conjured out of wilderness in 1960, SQS 108 was one of the first superblocks to be laid out and built up. (The city’s oldest church, a landmark designed by the celebrated architect Oscar Niemeyer, is also found nearby.) Freshly arrived from the northeastern state of Bahia, Lourivaldo Soares Marques chose this location to establish Super Banca 108 Sul, the infant capital’s first newsstand, providing newspapers and refreshments to the growing city.
In 1963, facing a hot summer, Soares planted a pair of rubber fig saplings (Ficus elastica) alongside his newsstand to provide shade. The ficuses’ free-flowing aerial roots, shaped by years of careful pruning, now grow together as a single trunk—framing a perfectly-formed doorway. More than just shade, Soares’s landscaping has become a neighborhood landmark, an organic and human-scaled response to the supersized concrete monuments in the city center.
Even better, the tree grants wishes. Soares has described the arboreal arch as an “energy portal,” where three wishes can be made to come true. The neighbors concur: a local university student named Anna Silva told a reporter in 2011 that she had made multiple wishes under the tree’s embrace, and swore that “one of them even is in the process of coming true right now.”
Soares has said that the tree, which he kisses three times a day, has fulfilled his wishes, too: the businesses he has built around the city, a five-decade marriage, nine children, and 18 grandchildren. It’s easy to believe him.