Instituto Central de Ciências (ICC) in UnB, Brasília – Oscar Neymar’s Brutalist Gem

The main corridor along the building's eastern section

photography by: Omri Westmark

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Some adore it as an architectural masterpiece while others deem it as a dystopian eyesore, Instituto Central de Ciências or ICC is the University of Brasília's main building and apparently so, also a source for heated debates over its unconventional design. Often dubbed as "The Worm" due to its elongated and curvy layout, the building is one of Oscar Neymar's least known works, making it a coveted pilgrimage site among his most zealous fans.

Sandwiched between Brasília’s famous pilot masterplan and Paranoá Lake, the University of Brasilia (UnB) is one of the largest and most renowned academic institutions across the country. While UnB campus is home to multiple Brutalist edifices, none of which is as remarkable and controversial as the ICC building, otherwise known as Instituto Central de Ciências (the Central Institute of Sciences). Designed by Brazil’s globally renowned architect Oscar Neymar, the ICC was the university’s first building upon its completion in 1971.


The most striking thing that comes to mind when looking at the article’s protagonist is its mind-boggling length, measuring a whopping 696 meters (2283 feet). It should then come as no surprise that no less than eight years were needed to construct this modernist mega-structure, which was originally designated as the UnB’s main building. As of today, this concrete mammoth accommodates 7 institutes (physics, psychology, social sciences, human sciences, exact sciences, geosciences and letters) and 3 faculties (architecture and urbanism, agronomy and veterinary science and communications).

Probably one of Neymar’s least known buildings, the ICC can be divided into 3 wings – south, central and north, with the main entrances being located in between, making them popular meeting spots for all students. The massive edifice is also comprised of three sections, a verdant garden wedged between a pair of 3 story buildings, each spanning across hundreds of meters. Thanks to its seemingly never-ending corridors that run along a curvy path, the building is better-known today as Minhocão, the Brazilian term for worm.


While initially, it is somewhat easy to dismiss the grace of such a place, a closer glimpse reveals all sorts of interesting phenomena within its confines. The boisterous gatherings of students around the smattering of kiosks, fluffy cats who roam freely throughout the classrooms and the mini-jungle reclining on the grimy concrete beams are merely some of the things that make the ICC a charming place for many of its tenants. Suffice to say that over the years, the building also gained a great deal of abhorrence, with its haters usually mentioning the 2011’s flood that inundated large parts with gushing water.


Whether the Worm is an appealing place or not, it is up for you to decide, one thing is clear though, this unignorable building is one of Brasília’s most interesting sites to explore, regardless of one’s final conclusion about its aesthetic merit.