However, the emphasis on what might be termed the sculptural aspects of the building is made at the cost of the building’s practicality; in other words, the concern for surface effect overrides the expected Modernist preoccupations of light and space. Bruand wrote of the disastrous quality of the rooms: their ‘total’ discomfort, their claustrophobic form ‘like narrow corridors’, their scale ‘visibly sacrificed’ to the overall visual effect. Access to the upper floors is via a spiral staircase, which is ‘impractical and dangerous’ for the old and children, and robs each apartment of valuable living space.

The relationship to mainstream Modernism is therefore a curious one: as Bruand puts it, Niemeyer’s interest here in the work of Le Corbusier extends only so far as it allows him ‘new possibilities of formal expression’. Functionalism is not a priority here. Bruand’s assessment tallies with the architect’s own views of the project, which are couched in purely aesthetic terms. He is bothered about the quality of the construction (poor), but more about the later additions to the ground floor, which have taken away from the original design, in which the public spaces were imagined as free-flowing; the pilotis are now hemmed in, he complains. But worse, the hotel has been disfigured by the addition of terrible furniture. Niemeyer complained to Israel Pinheiro (director of novacap, the company responsible for the construction of Brasilia) in the mid-1950s about it, offering to waive the fee for a government building in order to pay for restoration work, but to no avail. Niemeyer’s views locate the building in the realm of art, a singular vision that cannot be altered.

The Grande Hotel at Ouro Preto identifies a number of crucial differences between Brazilian and other Modernisms. There is the emphasis on history and historical context – a surprise for those who expect Zweig’s ‘land of the future’ to wish simply to erase the past. There is the use of local materials in order to fit in with a particular context, fourteen years before Le Corbusier tried the same thing in his Maisons Jaoul (1954–6). And in ideological terms there is also the sense that this is not just an isolated project, but a central one. It occurred at a crucial stage in Niemeyer’s career; he was appointed to the job in place of Leao, and what he designed had the blessing of Costa and SPHAN, set up to define for the first time Brazil’s built heritage.

edit post


0 Response to 'The Grande Hotel, Ouro Preto (1940) - A number of crucial differences between Brazilian and other Modernisms.'

Post a Comment