Oscar Niemeyer designed this modern 1940s complex, one of Belo Horizonte's don't-miss sights. On the banks of Lagoa da Pampulha, the Conjunto Arquitetônico encompasses the Museu de Arte da Pampulha, the Casa do Baile (under renovation), and the Igreja de São Francisco de Assis.
The museum, one of Niemeyer's first projects, shows the influence of the European architect Le Corbusier on the young Brazilian. The glass and concrete structure,
whose landscape gardens were designed by Richard Burle Marx, served as the city's casino until 1946, when gambling was prohibited in Brazil, and was converted into a museum in 1957. The museum is open only for guided visits that are worth scheduling.
The glass and stucco church's 14 exterior mosaic panels, which describe the life and activities of its namesake, St. Francis of Assisi, are moving riffs off the azulejos (decorative blue Portuguese tiles) found in many colonial churches in Brazil. Though the church is regarded these days as a national treasure, the local archbishop, in part because of Niemeyer's communist beliefs, wanted it destroyed.
Av. Otacílio Negrão de Lima, Belo Horizonte, 31365–450, Brazil