Oscar Niemeyer is a Brazilian architect (1907-2012) who is best known for his iconic public buildings in Brasilia, Brazil’s capital. Oscar is one of the rare architects in the sense that during his life time he had received an equal amount of praise and criticism for his woks and style. His unique style of brutalism also made him one of the candidates to be considered as successor of Swiss architect Le Corbusier. He was close to Brazilian Communist party and at the same time designed the French party headquarters in Paris. His design of Brasilia drew lot of criticism but at the same time it was included UNESCO World Heritage Site. Above all, in 1988, he won the Pritzker Prize for Architecture. However, presently, one of his incomplete projects which hardly made any impact during his life time is making news. Do you know why?
Now-a-days, Lebanon’s Rashid Karameh International Exhibition Center (the Tripoli International Fairground) designed by Oscar is attracting international attention. Interestingly, work on this brutalist design project halted four decades ago. It has recently been proposed as a candidate for the UNESCO list and it is expected to be approved.
When the project was conceived in 1960s it was hailed as a futuristic project which later went on to become a symbol of a future never realized. Work on the project was started in 1962 and was to be completed by mid-1970s. However, the project dragged on and on, due to technical difficulties and also due to corruption charges. And project had to be halted eventually due to civil war. It is often called “modern ruins” needing urgent rehabilitation.
The Fairground comprises 15 structures of raw concrete in Oscar’s distinct style. There is a distinct entranceway created from poured concrete slabs, an experimental concert hall in a domed concrete structure and an open theatre, at the end of which is a tall concrete arch – all are hallmark of Oscar’s style. Further, there is hotel, a helipad, an observation tower with a revolving restaurant and an exhibition pavilion surrounded by a forest of pointed Islamic-Venetian arches. In all, there are sufficient structures for both Oscar’s critics and admirers to engage themselves for a prolonged battle. And UNESCO listing may give the project an altogether different angle.