Tunel do Ficus, Brasília – SQS 108’s Natural Tree Arch

Tunel do Ficus in Brasília

photography by: Omri Westmark

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Since its inauguration in 1960, Brasília, Brazil’s planned capital city, is widely perceived as a pedestrian hellscape due to its car-oriented streets. Despite its somewhat dubious reputation among tourists and locals alike, the city is also home to dozens of hidden gems, most of which are scattered across the residential areas. Well-ensconced in the verdant block of SQS 108, Tunel do Ficus is a naturally formed arboreal arch which apparently, also serves as a modern-day Genie in a bottle.

The brainchild of Lúcio Costa, Joaquim Cardozo and Brazil’s most illustrious architect Oscar Niemeyer, Brasília’s masterplan has its fair share of haters. Known as the Pilot Plan due to its double-winged shape, the city’s layout is comprised of a monumental axis where all government buildings are located and a pair of residential boroughs, collectively made of 108 individual superblocks. In sheer contrast to the city’s ultra-monumentality, the blocks provide a verdant and tranquil alternative to the numerous multi-lane highways that traverse the Brazilian capital.


Superquadra Sul 108, better known as SQS 108, was Brasília’s first block to be built. In the early sixties, when the brand-new capital was unveiled, a Bahian man by the name of Lourivaldo Soares Marques arrived to the newly built block with the aim of creating his own business. No sooner said than done, Marques established the city’s first newsstand, aptly named Banca de Jornal 108 Sul.


In an era where fast internet and mobile phones were still regarded as a science fiction, the unassuming stand quickly gained momentum, with people queuing for an hour or so just to buy a newspaper. To make his customers’ waiting time more pleasant, Marques planted two Italian Ficus trees in front of the kiosk, whereby shading the area beneath from the scorching tropical sun.


In the following years, the two trees which initially grew apart, slowly but steadily started to merge together, ultimately becoming conjoined twins in a matter of decade. This unintended consequence resulted in a wondrous by-product, a naturally formed doorway wedged between the two Ficus trees, later dubbed as Tunel do Ficus (the Ficus Tunnel).


Enchanted by his unusual creation, Marques opted to capitalize on the natural oddity by asserting that every person who stand in the middle of the arch can make three wishes that would immediately come true, at least according to him. Intriguingly, both Marques and a couple of his customers fervently claim that the wishing tree never let them down.


Nowadays, Lourivaldo’s newsstand still offers its dedicated customers a plethora of newspapers, but also sweets, beverages, freshly-cut green coconuts and perhaps most importantly, a glimpse of the city’s most quirky tourist attraction.