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Monday, June 22, 2009

Oscar Niemeyer International Culture Center, Avilés, Spain

Niemeyer's 'most important European design' hosts international events pre-completion
At 101 years old, Oscar Niemeyer shows no signs of giving up on his passion for a hard day's graft. As his age and experience grow, so too does the gravitas of his projects, as Niemeyer's inaugural Spanish project proves.

Despite an expected completion date of Spring 2010, the Oscar Niemeyer International Culture Center in Avilés, Spain, is already playing host to events of international grandeur. A world premiere of the Woody Allen film Cassandra's Dream as well as a meeting of further cinematic hard hitters Wim Wenders and Carlos Saura have been held in the Dome of the development. But an altogether more significant event, the 2009 World Cultural Diplomacy Forum is also set to take place at the Center from September 15-17. This will see 200 world leaders in culture convene in what is effectively still a construction site to discuss international conflicts in culture, fitting given the Brazilian-Spanish 'deportation wars' last year that saw the two countries refusing entry by each other's nationals.

The building was commissioned by the city of Avilés as they prepare to compete for the European Capital of Culture 2016. Spain and Poland have been chosen on rotation to battle it out with many cities throughout the two countries engaging in cultural enhancements to grasp the title.

"The Niemeyer Center is an open door to culture in all its shapes, forms, traditions and styles. Music, theatre, cinema, expositions, conferences and outdoor and educational news will be the main focus of a multidisciplinary cultural programme of which the only common denominator is excellence," reads a statement by the Center. In Niemeyer's own words the building will be his most important European project.

But it is not his only ongoing European project. The assiduous architect is also delivering a striking auditorium in Ravello, off the south coast of Italy. The ambitious cliffside project features a 1,500 m2 overhanging canopy hosting the auditorium space with views out to the sea through a recognisably Niemeyer-esque oval opening. The building is set for completion in September. Unlike its Spanish counterpart, however, it will be maintaining a low profile until its opening night.

Niki May Young
News Editor

architecture NOW

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