Brasilia’s poster child, Niemeyer’s Catedral Metropolitana was as elegant as I had expected, but smaller than I anticipated. Nicknamed the “lamb rack roast” by my patient, non architect husband, the quality of light inside the cathedral was exquisite and the double glazing provides much needed respite from the heat of the Brasilia sun shine. Like many of Niemeyer’s public buildings, the main occupied space within the building is actually located underground, allowing the roof structure to become the landmark.
The phrase “it can’t be done” were clearly never uttered to Oscar Niemeyer, or perhaps he chose to ignore those skeptics. Located in the main hall of Palacio Itamaraty, this staircase is one of the most spectacular pieces of engineering and craftsmanship I have ever seen. I am truly inspired to reach to the heavens.
On a recent trip to Brazil to Neymar gaze, I found myself Niemeyer gazing instead. Whilst the Brazilian football team has two talents players named “Oscar” and “Neymar”, it is the late Oscar Niemeyer who is one of Brazil’s true heroes. A exemplar of true modernism, Palacio Itamaraty is one of Niemeyer’s greatest achievements. The concrete structure appears delicate and lightweight and the integration of landscape and interiors is breathtaking.
Our nation’s capital has some of the most elegant examples of public architecture in Australia. Commonwealth Place, designed by Durbach Block Jaggers in 2002 is a timeless example of building as landscape. Robust, beautifully detailed and timeless, the building grows from the banks of Lake Burley Griffin to frame Parliament House beyond.
I recently read an article which raised an interesting point that globalization can have a negative impact on cultural context. Many ‘starchitects’ (famous architects with rock star appeal) like Santiago Calatrava leave their mark on cities around the world, often without taking specific cultural cues from the city itself. This bridge, which is trademark Calatrava, is elegant, refined and structurally inspiring but where is it? (Hint: the city is famous for Eva Peron)
Most people would think of Machu Picchu when asked about ancient architecture in Peru, however Sacsayhuaman predates the Inca civilization. The complex an amazing example of engineering and stonemason skill. Located on the outskirts of Cuzco, the atmosphere is mesmerizing for its craftsmanship, its commanding location overlooking the ancient city and the Andes and the occasional visiting llama.
On a recent trip to Sydney I discovered some little gems in Darling Quarter. A series of small shelters and utilities buildings created as beautifully crafted, enveloping spaces where parents watched their children play and office workers relaxed during their lunch break.
Imagine gazing out the window each day over the roof tops of this ancient Royal city. Patan’s Durbar Square in Nepal is one of seven groups of monuments in the Kathmandu Valley recognised on the UNESCO World Heritage list for their cultural significance. Architecturally, the striking forms are complemented by rich terracotta tiles, bricks and elaborate wood carvings. The square has a vibrant atmosphere frequented by tourists and locals alike.
Every even numbered year La Biennale di Architettura is held in Venezia and draws thousands of international visitors to the mystical city. In 2012 Irish architects O’Donnell and Tuomey created an installation made from timber planks, designed to speak to the brickwork of the historic building in which it was positioned.
In 2007, Palazzo Grassi won a contest held by the City of Venice to transform Punta della Dogana (the historic customs house) into a centre of contemporary art. Tadao Ando was engaged to design and document the restoration and adaptive reuse of the building to accommodate part of the Francios Pinault Foundation collection of art.
Opened in 2009, the building is a must see for lovers of Ando, contemporary art or historic buildings.