Niemeyer Pavilion opens at Château La Coste



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Niemeyer Pavilion enriches the landscape of Château La Coste

Château La Coste’s latest architectural addition is a sculptural pavilion designed by the late, great Oscar Niemeyer

The latest addition to Château La Coste’s ever-growing collection of architectural pavilions and art installations is heralded as the latest project drawn by Oscar Niemeyer. As late as 2020, the owner of a tram factory in Leipzig proudly claimed that a 40ft concrete and glass sphere, attached to the top corner of one of his buildings and housing a restaurant and bar, represented Niemeyer’s latest design (see W*241 ). It turns out that Paddy McKillen, the founder of Château La Coste, just took longer to complete his somewhat larger project. And even now, ten years after Niemeyer’s death, just days before his 105th birthday, plans to bear his name are still being worked on.

Set in the rolling countryside of Provence and home to works by the likes of Frank Gehry, Tracey Emin, Tadao Ando, ​​Louise Bourgeois, Jenny Holzer and Ai Weiwei, Château La Coste now has an 80-seat auditorium in a circular white concrete drum, attached as a hinge to a teardrop-shaped gallery with glass walls of 4000 square meters. Nestled in a dip in the vineyards that surround the hotel at Château La Coste, it is reached by a path that winds languidly through the vines and enters the pavilion through a shallow reflecting pool. These are motifs known from Niemeyer’s earlier buildings. He used water everywhere from Brasilia to his office building for Mondadori on the outskirts of Milan. The confrontation of a drum-shaped solid element, with transparent free-form glass, is a paraphrase of the cultural center in Le Havre that he completed in 1983.

Set in the rolling landscape of Provence, the pavilion includes an 80-seat auditorium

Niemeyer’s astonishingly long career began in the 1930s when, as a young assistant on a team supervised by Le Corbusier, he designed the Brazilian Ministry of Education in Rio de Janeiro. In the 1940s he met Juscelino Kubitschek, the then mayor of Belo Horizonte, the city where he designed his first independent buildings. After the war, Niemeyer struggled with Le Corbusier to design the multi-authored building of the United Nations in New York. When Kubitschek became the president of Brazil, he appointed Niemeyer as the architect of his new capital, Brasilia.

A communist, Niemeyer left the country in 1964, when the military took over the government. During his exile, he built the headquarters of the French Communist Party in Paris, a location later chosen by Miuccia Prada to display a collection. He is certainly the only architect to be awarded both the Pritzker Prize and the Lenin Peace Prize.

After 2006, Niemeyer became increasingly vulnerable, but that didn’t stop him from marrying his 60-year-old assistant Vera Lucia Cabreira at the age of 98. In 2011, McKillen visited his studio in Rio, above Copacabana Beach, to talk about Niemeyer’s project for him. “Oscar beckoned me to a photo in his office of swimmers on Ipanema Beach, suggesting the building might have been inspired by the female form,” recalls McKillen. ‘I still remember his many questions about the vineyards of Château La Coste, and how he expressed his love for a good glass of red wine.’

Inside the structure is a red ceramic mural created by a local artisan in Provence based on a drawing by Oscar Niemeyer

By this time, the architect’s vision deteriorated. He relied on his sense of touch to feel building models and on light boxes to read the drawings his staff had made for him. He could no longer make his party piece for the stream of visitors who came to see him. Until he was in his nineties, he asked them to name one of his many buildings, make a pen and, without thinking, capture its essence with a single smooth black line on a sheet of butcher’s paper attached to a donkey was tied up. His assistant untied it, folded it and presented it as a gift.

Niemeyer had long since stopped traveling. He never saw the Serpentine Pavilion, unveiled during his absence in 2003. Nor did he attend the opening of his last major project completed while he was alive, the ill-fated Niemeyer Cultural Center in Spain, which closed nine months after it opened. in 2011, before reopening the following year under new management.

Jair Valera, an assistant who has worked for Niemeyer since 1974, went to Château La Coste on his behalf in 2010. He walked off the site, chose a location, and headed back to Brazil. In conversation with Niemeyer, he came up with four or five proposals. McKillen selected the one that was eventually realized. It sits on land protected by the local government as farmland, so it took McKillen’s team a long time to build the building that stands here.

The pavilion bears Niemeyer .’s signature smooth, curved lines

The Château La Coste project will probably not be the end. In Brazil, the hunger for posthumous Niemeyer projects, large and small, seems insatiable. The year after Niemeyer’s death, his office, then run by Valera, along with Niemeyer’s granddaughter, the late Ana Elisa Niemeyer (also an architect), picked up several major new projects, including a research park in northern Brazil and an aquarium. planned for a coastal suburb of Rio. Back in France, with the finishing touches as we write this, Niemeyer’s pavilion at Château La Coste opens its doors to the public this month. I

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