CD Designs Blog

    Tribute to Oscar Niemeyer

    Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer died last week at the age of 104. Widely regarded as one of the most influencial architects of the 20th century, he is best known for his work on the civic buildings of the Brazilian capital Brasilia.

    The Niterói Contemporary Art Museum Designed by Niemeyer

    The Niterói Contemporary Art Museum in Rio de Janeiro

    Niemeyer, full name Oscar Ribeiro de Almeida Niemeyer Soares Filho, was born in Rio de Janeiro in 1907. He graduated with a BA in architecture from Rio’s National School of Fine Arts in 1934, and went on to work at his father’s typography house. He also worked as a draftsmen in an architectural studio, even though they could not pay him, where he worked with Lucio Costa who he would later collaborate with on the Brasilia project and who created the plan for the layout of the city.

    In 1940 Niemeyer was commissioned to design a series of buildings in a new suburb that was being built in Pampulha, a residential area of Belo Horizonte. The Saint Francis of Assisi church is the best known building of the complex, and was considered revolutionary with its bold use of reinforced concrete. It was controversial however, and although it eventually became the first modern listed building in Brazil, the church was not consecrated until 1959, with the archbishop of Belo Horizonte Antonio dos Santos Cabral describing it as “the devil’s bomb shelter”.

    The Cathedral of Brasilia

    The Cathedral of Brasilia

    Building on the success in Pampulha, Niemeyer went on to design many prominent buildings in Brazil throughout the 1940’s and early 1950’s. In 1956 new Brazilian president Juscelino Kubitschek asked Niemeyer to help him with an audacious project, to build a new capital city for Brazil. He designed a large number of buildings for the city including the national congress of Brazil and the presidential residence, but the most famous is the Cathedral of Brasilia (pictured above), a hyperboloid structure utilising 16 concrete columns weighing 90 tons each.

    After his death on December 5th, tributes came from far and wide. The BBC’s obituary called him “one of the most innovative and daring architects of the last 60 years”, whilst noting he “built some of the world’s most striking buildings – monumental, curving concrete and glass structures which almost defy description”.

    La Sagrada Familia

    One of the facades of the church

    One of the facades of the church

    La Sagrada Familia is a large Roman Catholic church in Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain, designed by architect Antoni Gaudí. Construction was begun in 1882, and it is hoped that it will be completed by 2026, the 100th anniversary of Gaudi’s death.

    One of the materials being used in the construction is reinforced concrete. This may seem like a modern material that would not have been used by Gaudi, but he was actually one of the first architects to use it because Eusebi Güell, a Catalan entrepreneur who was the major patron of Gaudi’s work, was the owner of the first Portland cement factory in the country. Reinforced concrete is used on the termination of the towers on the Nativity façade, and Gaudi also proposed to use it on the construction of the naves in order to concentrate the horizontal forces on the columns, and reduce the amount of scaffolding for the construction.

    As regulations on building work have become stricter over the years, the quality of the concrete used has had to improve dramatically so that the church can stay as true as possible to the original design, whilst still complying with the new laws.

    Concrete Comedy Carpet

    Aerial view of the carpet

    Aerial view of the carpet

    Comedy Carpet, a new £2.6 million attraction located at the foot of Blackpool Tower, has recently been unveiled. It is the work of visual artist Gordon Young, whose work mainly focuses on creating art for the public domain.

    The work is 2,200 square metres in size, and comprises of 235 cast concrete panels, which include over 160,000 letters cut individually form solid red and black granite, and specially created cobalt blue concrete. The letters vary in size from a few centimetres to nearly a metre in height, so can be seen both close up and from the top of the tower.

    The carpet features the names, jokes and catchphrases of over 1000 comedians, including Les Dawson, Frankie Howerd, Tommy Cooper and Morecambe and Wise, and was unveiled by another comedy legend Ken Dodd.

    Comedy carpet is one of the most ambitious pieces of public art ever commissioned in the UK, taking 5 years to complete from initial conception to finished installation, and is part of the Festival Headland overhaul, a new events area at the resort. Graham Caine, Blackpool Council’s cabinet member for tourism and culture, said of the work: “This magnificent work is all part of the continuing regeneration of Blackpool. It’s a truly unique work of accessible public art at one of our resort’s most famous locations”.

    The Real Concrete Jungle

    The tree-like columns of one of the viaducts

    The tree-like columns of one of the viaducts

    Can you tell that one of our team recently went to Barcelona yet? Following on from our look at La Sagrada Familia, another work of Catalan architect Antoni Gaudi is Park Guell, which is located on the hill of El Carmel in the Gracia district of Barcelona. Named after the entrepreneur Eusebi Guell (also mentioned in the previous article), who originally bought the land with the intention of turning it into a ‘garden city’ complete with housing. The housing idea never caught on, and the area eventually became a municipal park.

    As with La Sagrada Familia, the work makes good use of concrete to create interesting and naturalistic structures. In the so-called room of 100 columns (there are in fact only 86), there are lintels of reinforced concrete that divide the ceiling into squares, on which there are inscribed partial spheres covered with white ceramic. Concrete is also used extensively in the tree-like columns that hold up the viaducts, and in the bollards that accompany you on your walk down the Rosary Path.

    Gaudi’s grand vision for the park was to not adapt the landscape to suit the art, but to let the art adapt to the existing natural landscape. The famous viaducts were his solution to allow easy movement around the park, while preserving the mountain’s natural shape. The use of concrete in the viaducts helped him to accomplish this.

    Concrete Surfaces

    A Kitchen With Concrete Surfaces

    A Kitchen With Concrete Surfaces

    Traditionally granite or wood has been used for surfaces around the home or workplace, however concrete is becoming more widely used and is a practical and artistic alternative.

    Concrete is an excellent choice for a surface, as it can be custom made to suit a wide variety of uses. It can be molded into a large number of different shapes, can be stained with a wide variety of colours. and can be made to resemble lots of other building materials like the aforementioned wood or granite. It can be polished, patterned or sealed to give any number of desired finishes. The concrete can be pre-cast off site or cast in place, giving lots of flexibility to the building process.

    A finished concrete counter is durable, functional and beautiful, and commands a similar price to granite, meaning adding a concrete counter, tabletop, bar top or whatever else you can think of, will make your home or workplace look classy and affluent. It is ideal for kitchen surfaces due to its high heat resistance and toughness, and can be great for outdoor surfaces as long as it is designed with this purpose in mind.

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