The evolution of modern architecture burgeoned at the end of the 19th century with the innovation of construction technologies and materials. Oscar Niemeyer was one of the pioneers of modern architecture who sculpted the buildings in curvilinear forms. This distinct feature of his design style made him stand out from the crowd. His design philosophy was inspired by the free-flow curves of nature such as mountains, rivers, ocean waves, and the female body. The landscape also played a crucial role as it harmonized with the distinct forms of the building designed by him. He further propelled forward the use of reinforced concrete by implementing it for aesthetic purposes. Centro Niemeyer at Avilés, Asturias, Spain is one such example of his work where we can observe these design styles.
Anecdote behind the Idea of Centro Niemeyer
Centro Niemeyer is an international cultural center which is the only design project by Oscar Niemeyer in Spain and one of his works in Europe that is close to his heart. There is an anecdote behind the opportunity he got to design this cultural center in Avilés, Asturias. In 1989, the Prince Asturias of the Arts Award was won by him. Later, The Prince of Asturias Foundation had invited the award winners to play a part in the celebration of the 25th anniversary of the Award in 2006 where he presented his idea of a cultural center by saying,
“I am an architect and, as such, what I do is design buildings and that is just what I am going to do; design a building.”
He started drawing a thick curve line on a piece of blank paper which became the inspiration for this design project. Due to his generous gesture, the international cultural center is known by his name.
The Philosophical Design Idea
The design philosophy of Oscar Niemeyer was influenced by the curvilinear form of nature that harmonizes with the landscape which is evident in the Centro Niemeyer. His main intention was to create a unique piece of artwork that would stand out from the buildings which he had designed in the past. We can also witness the implementation of bright colors that portray the inspiration of Neoplasticism or the new plastic art apart from the curvy forms. He also prioritized the field of culture, education, and peace as it is an international cultural center whose purpose is to serve several audiences, participants, teachers, and students from the cultural forum irrespective of their gender, race, color, and nationality around the globe.
Creation of Curvilinear Design Forms and its Plan
Oscar Niemeyer included five crucial design structures in the Centro Niemeyer. These are the open square that reflects the idea of a space open to humankind, the auditorium that has been designed in the curvilinear form and is connected with the dome which is for displaying the artworks by a spline shaped ramp, the tower that can be accessed by the spiral stairs, and the multipurpose hall. The open square is used for outdoor activities and events where people from different parts of the world can gather together. Similarly, the auditorium can hold approximately 1000 spectators for concerts and other cultural events.
The dome is a three-storied exhibition hall where we can view alluring spiral stairs that leads to the mezzanine floor where there is light and sound installation. The tower is used for refreshment purposes as it accommodates a restaurant and a lounge with a sightseeing area. The multipurpose building serves to attend meetings and conferences, to watch cinemas, and to rehearse. Oscar Niemeyer has designed free-spaced movement not only in the public forum of the cultural center but also in the interiors of the curvilinear structures.
Pioneering Building Material and Techniques
Reinforced concrete and glass have been used abundantly in the multipurpose building, the auditorium, and the tower. There was an implementation of white concrete as the base and finishing material for the open square to harmonize with the whole building structure. There was a dome-shaped museum building that was built at a faster pace with the execution of advanced technology. Each designed form of this cultural center has its dimension and complexity so the technicians accepted such challenges by creating and following a construction plan which was well executed.
Oscar Niemeyer used bright colors not only in the exterior walls of the auditorium but also in the interiors of the dome. There is a piece of art portraying an outline of a female body in a resting position on a bright yellow ceramic wall of the auditorium. On its other side of the wall, the stage door is highlighted with bright red paint. The use of such bright colors creates an impressive contrast with the rest of the white-colored design structures. A similar contract is seen in the interior of the dome where the background wall is painted with dazzling red color. This highlights the alluring spiral stairs by making them more splendid.
The Island of Innovation due to Niemeyer Effect
The Centro Niemeyer is also known for the forum of the urban renewal process to improvise the waterfront view of the entire town. The environmental element of this design project plays a key role because of its geographical location. This center is situated on an island in the Avilés estuary that is close to the industrial area which makes urban regeneration a vital task of the region. The Government of Asturias and the Government of Spain are investing in this futuristic plan by eradicating the heavy-traffic flow from the nearby ports and creating recreational centers such as different types of sports activities.
Oscar Niemeyer achieved the idea of the international cultural center by composing the vital structures in a balanced and controlled process on the plane surface of the public forum. The spline-shaped ramp depicts the strong connection between the auditorium and the exhibition building sculpted in the shape of a dome. This ramp also acts as an axis that maintains a balance between the tower and the multipurpose building. Centro Niemeyer was inaugurated in 2011 and was temporarily closed for a year. Still, it is serving its purpose successfully and soon will also be known for the film center.
1] Online Source: Centro Niemeyer, Avilés Building, Spain – e-architect (e-architect.com)