The Oscar Niemeyer International Cultural Centre or Centro Niemeyer (Spanish: Centro Cultural Internacional Oscar Niemeyer), (popularly known as el Niemeyer), is the result of the combination of a cultural complex designed by the Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer and an international cultural project. The center is located on the estuary of Avilés, Asturias (Spain). It was inaugurated on 26 May 2011.
The architect described the Niemeyer Centre as “An open square to the humankind, a place for education, culture and peace”.
The buildings can be seen from many different places including the air. Its size and white, red and yellow colors highlight its location in the landscape of the town.
The Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer (designer of Brasilia and one of the most influent mondernist architects in the world was awarded with the Prince of Asturias Award for Art in 1989. That was the origin of the relationship between Oscar Niemeyer and the Principality of Asturias. Years later, as a present for the 25th Anniversary of the Prince of Asturias Awards, Niemeyer donated a project to the Principality. His design has become a project meant to be an international reference in the cultural field. It is dedicated to education, culture and peace. This centre is the first Oscar Niemeyer’s work in Spain, and he has said he believes it is the most important in Europe, which is the reason its name is “Centro Niemeyer”.
The Niemeyer Centre is formed by five main elements that complement each other:
The main features in Oscar Niemeyer’s work are the curves. The colours are also features: mainly white, red, yellow and blue; this is because of the influence in his work of the (Neoplasticism).
The first stone was set on April 2008. The museum building structure was built in about an hour, as a result of the use of a pioneer technique for cultural buildings in Spain. This way, it took about an hour to set up the whole structure. Then both the “Multipurpose building” and the “Auditorium” were constructed. The materials used were mainly concrete and glass. Also during this time the basis of the “Tower” was started, but it was not until the structures of other buildings were almost finished that the works on the Tower were visible. An underground car park was added. The “Open Square” was covered in white concrete. The sides of the Auditorium were painted in yellow, creating a contrast with the dominant white colour. On one of the sides of this building, a ceramic art work, designed by Niemeyer, represents the outline of a woman resting. The stage door was painted in red. This door can be open to the square, so that shows can take part inside or outside the building.
The inauguration act took place on March 2011 with a video speech with Oscar Niemeyer from Brasilia and a jazz concert with Woody Allen in front of an audience of more than 10.000 people.
Apart from its cultural purposes, the Óscar Niemyer International Cultural Centre of Avilés has an important environmental element. It is the center of a large scale urban regeneration process that will change the whole waterfront of the town. It is going to be located on an island created in the Avilés estuary, not far from the industrial area. This will help in the regeneration process of that area.
The authorities are now planning a many changes there, such as eliminating heavy traffic from the port area (where the center will be located) and creating sporting and recreation areas instead. Also a brand new set of projects are being released because of the Niemeyer Centre effect. This area is called now, La Isla de la Innovación (The Island of the Innovation).
It is developed by the Government of the Principality of Asturias and the Government of Spain. It will provide for the economic and urban regeneration of a degraded area in the middle of a process of industrial transformation: the Avilés estuary, situated in Asturias, northern Spain.
Thanks to the architecture and the cultural project, some artists became interested in Centro Niemeyer. Brad Pitt, a follower of Oscar Niemeyer’s work visited the town to see the works and increased the publicity of the Asturian cultural complex. Other Hollywood stars such as Kevin Spacey, visited the town several times in collaboration with the center (premieres, conferences, and theatre plays). The collaboration with different world personalities (artists, Nobel price awards winners, United Nations meetings, etc.) made Centro Niemeyer the “Spanish cultural insititution with more presence in national and international media” in 2011.
A year later works around the Centro Niemeyer prepared for the arrival of the first commercial cruise in the history of Avilés. An Oriental Garden next to the estuary receives the visitors arriving through the estuary. There are plans to create a bigger recreation port to increase tourism.
The Centro Niemeyer has also inspired several sweets, such as: Niemeyitas, Cúpulas de Avimeyer (Avimeyer domes), etc. The short film “Keres” by Alfonso S. Suarez was recorded on the Centro Niemeyer.
Several car companies have also used the buildings to promote their latest cars.
Also a fashion magazine used it as background for a photographic session in 2011.
Oscar Niemeyer’s vision is based on three pillars: education, culture and peace. The Centro Niemeyer tries to be a magnet for the three elements. The Niemeyer Centre also tries to combine international and national products.[according to whom?]
In December 2007, the Foundation organized the First Worldwide Forum of International Cultural Centres in Avilés, Asturias (also known as the G8 of Culture) with eight international cultural centers: Lincoln Center of New York (USA), Barbican Centre of London(UK), Sydney Opera House, Centre Georges Pompidou of Paris (France), Library of Alexandria, Tokyo International Forum(Japan) and Hong Kong Cultural Center (China) and the Cultural Centre Óscar Niemeyer of Asturias (Spain).
The exhibition “LUZ” by Carlos Saura was a production by Centro Niemeyer. The center co-produced UTOPÍA by María Pagés, and also, in association with other institutions, co-commissioned and produced Richard III by Sam Mendes with Kevin Spacey in the main role. This theatre play was part of the Bridge Project between the BAM (Brooklyn Academy of Music), the Old Vic Theatre in London and the British Independent Producer Neal Street. Asturias was one of the few places in the World where it was represented, adding Aviles to a list of names such as London, Naples, Istanbul, Athens, San Francisco, and New York.
The Centro Niemeyer has organised different educational activities such as those in collaboration with the Kevin Spacey Foundation, or María Pagés. Students of different ages had the chance of finding a meeting place for learning.[according to whom?] Some of those students had important chances as a consequence of those activities: such as doing a performance in Broadway It was also one of the stops of the Ruta Quetzal in 2011
One of the permanent activities of the Niemeyer Centre will be the ‘Film Centre’. Woody Allen proposed the idea to the Principality of Asturias Government after several visits to Asturias. Woody Allen has shown publicly his support to the Avilés’ centre, visiting the town and including bits of it in his first film in Spain (Vicky Cristina Barcelona 2008). In October 2008, the European Film Academy (EFA) announced that it will collaborate with the Niemeyer Centre’s Film The center has a permanent cinema in the Multipurpose Building. The seat number 7 on the 5th row bears Woody Allen’s name, who inaugurated the cinema on 2011. There is a second seat dedicated to Volker Schlöndorff. The Film Centre works on themes, such as the United Nations, etc., but also premieres, and short-films.
There are three different areas dedicated to this science: the bar, the tower restaurant and the cocteleria. The Gastro restaurant provides a space where 14 guests sit around a common table and are involved in the cooking process. Famous cooks share their experience and menus there.
The main exhibition gallery is The Dome. There is a second and smaller gallery in the foyer of the Auditorium and sometimes on the two rooms of the Multipurpose Building.
Apart from the ones above, there are many different arts included in the activity of the Centro Niemeyer, including music, theatre, and ballet.
The Fundación Centro Cultural Internacional Oscar Niemeyer Principado de Asturias was created in 2007 to manage the buildings and cultural project Centro Niemeyer. The Foundation develops the international project and to set a work collaboration network. The work of this Foundation is based on three aims: education, culture and peace: “An open square to the humankind, a place for education, culture and peace” in the words of the architect. It is hoped[according to whom?] the centre will be a magnet for talent, knowledge and creativity, as well as promoting local content. It will have a strong focus on collaboration with international cultural centres.
Oscar Niemeyer is the honorary member of the Foundation.
The activity of the Foundation starts before the works on the buildings. They organized the first “G8 of culture” conferences with Paulo Coelho, Alejandro Amenábar, Omar Shariff, the representation of The Tempest, etc. Damien Pwono (ASPEN Institute) said during a visit to the town, «The most important thing in culture is add the efforts of different people, and that is what Centro Niemeyer is doing, also taking an eclectic point of view. Other centers show how beautiful they are, but the Niemeyer, even without building, is real».
Until the spring of 2012 the general director of the centre was Natalio Grueso.
There is also an International Advisory Board of the International Cultural Centre Óscar Niemeyer. Some of its members are Stephen Hawking, Vinton Cerf, Woody Allen, Paulo Coelho, and Jose Andres.
The Niemeyer Centre will also collaborate with the London School of Economics, the Instituto Cervantes, the Old Vic theatre of London (currently directed by Kevin Spacey) María Cristina Masaveu Foundation, Ministry of Culture (Spain) and with exhibitions exchange with CaixaForum (La Caixa).
On 17 October 2008, the news is that the Nigerian writer, poet and playwright Wole Soyinka, who won a Nobel Prize in Literature in 1986, will collaborate with the Niemeyer Centre. He visited Asturias in 2012 and collaborate with a conference and an exhibition.
Right after its creation, the Foundation activity started. That way, even before the actual buildings were finished, a lot of activities organized by the Niemeyer Centre took place in Avilés. Some of the activities included premieres (Cassandra’s Dream by Woody Allen,) the celebration of the 20th Anniversary of The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho in the Palacio Valdés Theatre (event also transmitted by the Internet), the visits of Fatema Mernissi in June 2008, Wole Soyinka, Vinton Cerf, Omar Sharif, the concerts of Barbara Hendricks, Joan Manuel Serrat, etc.
Also the first steps for collaborations with the Old Vic Theatre of London took place at that time.
During the spring of 2011 the announcement of the inaugural programme created a lot of expectation proven by the 10,000 invitations accepted for Woody Allen and The New Orleans Jazz Band concert. The first exhibitions were associates to personalities such as Jessica Lange and Julian Schnabel, etc. The activities programme is on the Centre’s agenda, including exhibitions, concerts, etc.
All these activities made the Centro Niemeyer of Asturias appear in national and international media.
The arquitectural project received these awards:
It also received an award for its cultural contribution:
After the regional elections in 2011 there were political differences that affected the center. At this stage, the opinion on the street and a Facebook Group become the origin of the citizens movement “YO APOYO AL CENTRO CULTURAL INTERNACIONAL OSCAR NIEMEYER” (I support Oscar Niemeyer International Cultural Centre). This movement was open to anyone who supported what the Centro Niemeyer had represented both cultural and economically for the town and the region, leaving aside political ideologies. As any citizens movement, it had to prove their political independence.
There was not a renewed allowance for the Foundation to continue with the management of the center. On 15 December 2011 the center was closed and employees were laid off. A month later it reopened, for a few months, under a different name and project. Through demonstrations, online signature campaigns, articles on the press, manifestos and cultural events (some of which appeared on national an international media,) the movement tried to support and keep the original project. Members of the citizens movement met up with different political parties, trade unions and businesses. During this period, different personalities from the culture and journalism supported the Centro Niemeyer through social networks, signing manifestos, etc.
Eventually, a few months later, after early elections in 2012, the Foundation was allowed back to the management of the centre and the project recovered its original name. The plaque was up on the center on 21 June 2012.
During the homage to Oscar Niemeyer on 15 December 2012 (it would have been his 105 birthday), the citizens movement released “Sentimiento Niemeyer”. The verses were written by different people through a Facebook event and put together by musicians. The song was released under a Creative Commons license (attribution, non-profit, no-variations) so that other artists who shared the feeling around the world could make their own cover of the song, keeping the melody and translating the lyrics.
he Niemeyer Center in Aviles, Spain is soon to be shut down for several months due to disagreement over its finances and irregularities in its spending. The cultural center opened a mere 8-months ago, designed by Brazilian architect, Oscar Niemeyer and has been an admired and appreciated institution for the city. More after the break.
The Niemeyer Center could have done for Aviles what the Guggenheim has done for Bilbao, according to Janelle Zara of ARTINFO. Unfortunately, Spain economy has stunted such success. The center and institution are not being let go easily. Mayor, Pilar Varela expressed her appreciation for the institution as an economic engine. According to Cristina Carrillo De Albornoz of The Art Newspaper, protesters have gathered “every last Sunday of the month since late September” to express their support.
The regional government, led by President Alvarez Cascos, continues to look into the center’s finances. The government has also expressed its disappointment at the exhibitions and performances that have taken place since its opening. So while the finances and program remain under scrutiny, the future of the Niemeyer Center is still unknown. Talks will continue into December, mediated by Angeles González-Sinde, Spain’s minister of culture.