Nov 21, 2009

Oscar Niemeyer's Auditório Ibirapuera, in São Paulo: stunning concert hall

“I am not naïve enough to follow those who think themselves extraordinarily important and predestined to make history. (…) I know well how precarious and illusory things seem over time, which dillutes and forgets all”, says Oscar Niemeyer. Yet time has done nothing but extol the Brazilian architect’s genius. A case in point is the Auditório Ibirapuera, a concert hall he designed half a century ago which was finally inaugurated in 2005, with much fanfare.

A trapeze-shaped white façade of white-painted concrete frames the entrance, accented by a lipstick-red tongue (stunning, but which does little to protect patrons from inclement weather). The foyer is pure Niemeyer: a white expanse anchored by a coiled ramp to the left, leading to the audience, and an oversize sculpture (also lipstick-red) by famed artist Tomie Ohtake blanketing ceiling and one wall like a bird’s wing. The auditorium, wedge-shaped in profile, is two-in-one: a 20-meter wide door behind the stage opens at the touch of a button, exposing the lawn and trees behind it. The artist can either perform to an indoor audience of 800 or turn around and face the park and a crowd of up to 15,000.

The concert hall was the missing piece in a much larger oeuvre: the Parque do Ipirapuera, São Paulo’s grandest park. Inaugurated in 1954, its grounds are studded with modernist structures designed by the the Pritzker Prize winner, including the upside-down semi-circle Oca, which houses an exhibition hall, and the light-filled Museu de Arte Moderna, Latin America’s largest museum of contemporary art. Each building is part of a harmonious whole and was erected according to plan - except for the auditorium. At the time, planners ran out of money, and couldn’t overcome mounting political hurdles. Plans were finally ressurected in 2002, and modified only slightly, to become wheelchair-accessible and allow for up-to-date sound and light equipment. The wait was well worth it: the Auditório is not only accoustically impeccable, but portcard-perfect.

Auditório Ibirapuera: Portão 3 (Gate 3) of the Ibirapuera Park.

And here is a slideshow of the Auditório's own P.R. shots:

More sightseeing and attractions in São Paulo:

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