Niemeyer’s still got it.

National Congress Building, Brasilia

It is hard to imagine a city more  distinct than Brazil’s capital, Brasilia. The capital city was purposely built in the late 1950s, fulfilling an article in the country’s constitution dating back to 1891 which stated that the country’s capital should be moved inland, away from Rio de Janeiro towards the centre of Brazil. What Brasilia offered was a chance to design a city from scratch. 5,550 people applied for the chance and one man won the opportunity, his name was Lucio Costa. Lucio Costa was given the post of main urban planner, but it was his friend Oscar Niemeyer, appointed chief architect who would provide Brasilia with its unique look.

Lucio Costa created the space and Oscar Niemeyer filled it and he filled it with space-age designs that screamed of modernity, great concrete shapes of uniform proportions, completely unnatural to look at but aesthetically beautiful. Buildings such as the National Congress building, the Palacio do Planalto and the Cathedral of Brasilia meant that the finished city was and is as much a work of art as it is a capital city.

Brasilia is getting on now, celebrating its 50th birthday last year in 2011. Just as Brasilia is getting on, so is Oscar Niemeyer, who is hitting the more than ripe old age of  104 this year. But age knows no bounds for Niemeyer and he continues to design buildings and continues to make new additions to Brasilia. His latest addition is the Torre Digital TV Tower being built in the city.

Torre TV Tower under construction

The tower is unmistakably a Niemeyer creation. Standing tall in the heat of Brazil’s interior, it’s concrete dressed in a whitewash, the tower, like all his other creations looks as if it has been plucked from a 1960s conception of a city on the moon. Still a work in progress, the finished article will protrude 185m into the air and its foundation delve 13m into the ground to ensure it doesn’t become ‘the leaning tower of Brasilia’. It will include two platforms at 60m and 80m, both encased in glass domes. The highest will feature a restaurant, the one lower down a gallery space. You can only imagine how great the unimpeded views on offer of the city sprawling out in the shape of an airplane underneath it will be.

Nearly complete

There is something incredibly liberating about Niemeyer’s architecture. It is so other-worldly and so impossible looking that the fact it exists instills a great sense into you that anything is possible. Indeed, if a man can still be designing great buildings like this at 104, it would seem that anything really is possible…

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Dan works for RealBrazil - the UK specialists in tailormade holidays to Brazil.

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04 2011

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