Monthly Archives: December 2012

Oscar Niemeyer Museum, Curitiba, Brazil. Photo by Ben Tavener.

Oscar Niemeyer Museum, Curitiba, Brazil. Photo by Ben Tavener.

Brazil and bureaucracy are pretty much synonymous. You can’t escape it: you just have to play the game, which is a waiting one, and keep calm.

For most visitors, particularly those from the UK and Europe, visiting Brazil is a doddle. Just turn up, and you’re allowed 90 days, which can be extended by another 90 days to a maximum of 180 days.

But for those who want to remain longer than that – the options are limited.

I’m now back in the UK, waiting for my new temporary-permanent visa – a trip which also cunningly doubles up just in time to spend Christmas and the new year (and probably the first couple of months of 2013) with my family.

However, when I do get back to Brazil, I will be in São Paulo.

For this reason I spent my last few days, for now, revisiting sights around Curitiba, which had been my home in Brazil for the past 18 months.

I particularly wanted to see the Oscar Niemeyer Museum again, after the architect’s recent death.

See my goodbye photos HERE.

Curitiba Cathedral, Brazil. Photo by Ben Tavener.

Curitiba’s Metropolitan Cathedral, Brazil. Photo by Ben Tavener.

Largo da Ordem - Curitiba, Brazil. Photo by Ben Tavener.

Largo da Ordem – Curitiba, Brazil. Photo by Ben Tavener.

Centro Cívico - Curitiba, Brazil. Photo by Ben Tavener.

Centro Cívico – Curitiba, Brazil. Photo by Ben Tavener.

Brazilian Architect Oscar Niemeyer in 2005

Brazilian Architect Oscar Niemeyer in 2005

Legendary modernist architect Oscar Niemeyer, who designed many of the most prominent government buildings in Brasília and the UN Headquarters in New York City – has died in a Rio hospital just days before marking his 105th birthday.

President Dilma Rousseff has extended her deepest sympathies to Niemeyer’s family.

Niemeyer’s body will be flown to Brasília on to lie in state in the Presidential Palace, the Planalto, in memory of the architectural legacy he bestowed on Brazil and many other countries, including the U.S. and Spain, before being returned to Rio’s Palácio da Cidade in Botafogo for a private ceremony with friends and family.

National Congress of Brazil Building, Brasília. Photo by Ben Tavener.

Niemeyer designed the National Congress of Brazil building in Brasília. Photo by Ben Tavener.

The public will then be granted access before he is buried in Botafogo.

Niemeyer rose to international fame in the 1960s as the new futuristic capital city was unveiled to the nation. The hallmark architectural swoops he used in his designs were, by his own admission, inspired by the “free-flowing sensual curves” of Brazilian women.

An ardent communist and atheist, he fled Brazil during the military dictatorship of the 1970s and 1980s, and continued to build on his career in France. His innovative use of reinforced concrete and rejection of conventional angled designs earned him both admirers and critics.

Read full news article on The Rio Times

Personal experience

Contemporary Art Museum, Niterói, Rio

Niemeyer’s Contemporary Art Museum in Niterói, Rio de Janeiro. Photo by Ben Tavener.

Oscar Niemeyer is difficult to miss in Brazil. He is simply everywhere, whether you are in Rio – where you’ll be struck by his Contemporary Art Museum in Niterói, or his swoop in Rocinha – or in Curitiba, Natal or Belo Horizonte.

But nowhere has he made his mark more firmly than on Brasília – the plane-shaped capital tailor-made for governing, which was inaugurated in the 1960s.

It’s a strange place – there’s no two ways about it. You feel like your in a blown-up version of a model of the city. The buildings don’t fit in, nor do they match with each other, but still – there is a certain charm to it all.

And it is impressive. The plan was to make a futuristic-looking Brasília, and if you look at it through the eyes of someone in the 1960s, you can see how it must have blown them away.

Oscar Niemeyer Museum in Curitiba, Brazil

Is it an eye or an araucária tree? The Oscar Niemeyer Museum in Curitiba, southern Brazil. Photo by Ben Tavener.

Nowadays, it looks like someone tried to make it look futuristic, and feels more like a theme park.

Most notably in Brasília, Niemeyer designed the striking government buildings around the Praça dos Três Poderes (“Three Powers Square” – the Supreme Court, the President, and the Senators and Deputies) and the hyperboloid-shaped Cathedral.

Despite criticism that his communist brain couldn’t fathom what it meant for his art to be touched by human love (although, to be fair, he was married for 76 years to the same woman before she passed away), he said the swoops that became his hallmark were inspired by nature and people – from the mountains and rivers of Rio, to curves of Brazilian women.

He said:

“When you have a large space to conquer, the curve is the natural solution. I once wrote a poem about the curve. The curve I find in the mountains of my country, in the sinuousness of its rivers, in the waves of the ocean and on the body of the beloved woman.”

Niemeyer was said to be designing until very near the end of his long life, with many unfinished projects and indeed many that never left the drawing board – including in Moscow, Mexico, Cuba, Venezuela and Saudi Arabia, DR Congo and Portugal.

But despite that, he now has more than 600 buildings around the world to his name, including museums, monuments, schools and churches.

The 2012 growth forecast for the Brazilian economy has been cut for the third consecutive week by market analysts, falling dramatically from the previous estimate of 1.5% to just 1.27%.

Brazil Finance Minister Guido Mantega says 2013 will see growth of 4% or more. Photo by Antonia Cruz/ABr.

Brazil Finance Minister Guido Mantega says 2013 will see growth of 4% or more. Photo by Antonia Cruz/ABr.

The news comes after disappointing figures for the third quarter of 2012, released a week earlier by the IBGE, Brazil’s national office of statistics.

With only 0.6% growth on the previous quarter, the figure was just half the 1.2% target predicted by market analysts for the quarter.

Finance Minister Guido Mantega said that while he was “surprised” with the weak growth, he remained adamant the economy could grow at least four percent in 2013, as he has previously stated.

Mantega recognized that 2012 had been a “very difficult” year, but said it was ending with a return to growth and upward trend for the economy. He also said that cuts in the SELIC, Brazil’s benchmark interest rate, would also reap future benefits:

“We are living a silent revolution in the economy. The return to growth has already started,” O Globo newspaper quoted the finance minister as saying.

However, he laid the blame for the downturn in Brazil squarely on the international economy, saying the relapse in the economic crisis has damaged investments, which he said would come back.

The comments follow similar criticism made by the finance minister in recent months on the way overseas economies have been dealing with the crisis, particularly those implementing a program of quantitative easing, like the U.S., a process which he vehemently opposes.

Yet others questioned the extent to which Brazil can truly blame other nations for its financial troubles. Most commentators have been baffled by what they see as Mantega’s overly-positive outlook for the economy in 2013, and the FT described the downturn as having “shaken Brazil from its dream”.

There was, however, some good news: the agriculture-livestock sector grew 2.5% in October. Industrial production also picked up, growing 0.9% on September and 2.3% year-on-year. However, the services industry flatlined in October.

Read the full article on The Rio Times site.