Ruins of UnB, Brasília – The Mysterious Remains of an Unfinished Building

The unfinished remnants of the ESG headquarters

photography by: Omri Westmark

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A mere short distance away from the student-filled classrooms of Brasília’s public university lies a massive concrete structure, slowly but steadily reclaimed by the elements. Known as the Ruins of UnB (Ruínas da UnB), what was at first an ambitious project at shores of Paranoá Lake turned into a post-apocalyptic movie scene amid the country’s economic hardships during the 1970’s.

Following the relocation of Brazil’s capital from Rio de Janeiro to Brasília in 1960, myriads of governmental agencies and institutions have migrated to the newly established city, where a construction boom has taken place to accommodate the influx of newcomers. Among the many organizations which set their eyes on the nascent metropolis was Escola Superior de Guerra or simply the ESG. Directly translated as the Superior College of War, the ESG is an institution whose main goal has been to educate the country’s political and military elite.


In 1973, when Brazil was governed by a military dictatorship, the ESG has commissioned the construction of a ginormous new headquarters along the shores of Lago Paranoá, an artificially made lake in the middle of town. While initially, everything went according to plan, the construction works were cut short by a crippling economic calamity caused by the 1970’s oil crisis. Despite several attempts to revive the project, the site was eventually abandoned, rapidly descended into a state of disrepair.

Fast forward to the 2020’s, what remains today of the once pretentious plan to erect the ESG main building is a cluster of skeletal remnants, incessantly consumed by nature. Dominated by overgrown vegetation, graffiti and a waste of all kinds, the abandoned complex is surpassingly accessible for whoever wish to explore its derelict grounds.


In spite of their name, the Ruins of UnB (Ruínas da UnB) have nothing to do with the nearby UnB campus. Instead, their moniker comes from the site’s short proximity to the university. Originally designed by architect Sérgio Bernardes, the massive complex would have comprised of a three-story building whose 140-meter-long triangular layout was supposed to protrude into the adjacent lake.


Exposed iron bars, collapsing concrete platforms and a pair of stray dogs who occasionally roam the area are only some of the things which make this place a no-go zone for the faint hearted. Suffice to say that intrepid visitors who do opt to venture into this spooky place are advised to calculate each and every step with the utmost caution and respect.