“Patricia, run, come to see the New Year's Eve fireworks”. Dad called me to watch the spectacular fireworks on TV. It was one of happiest and most magical times I have had with my dad.
I looked at it with a childish imagination and wondered:
How did they turn a building into a waterfall of fireworks without breaking any glass? And how they managed to light up an entire beach (São Conrado, in Rio de Janeiro - Brazil)?
I have kept my silence until now and at that moment I made a promise to myself that “one day I would go there and see the beach from inside the giant cylinder”.
As time went on, my life and this “cylinder” has undergone some changes.
The financial crises forced the Hotel Nacional to close in 1995, a closure that lasted more than 20 years. The hotel was built between 1968-1972 by the famous architect Oscar Niemeyer who in his time created more than 600 pieces of art.
Oscar Niemeyer considered the " father" of modern architecture in Brazil and around the world, revolutionized architecture. He passed away in 2012 , at the age of 104, but his talent lives on in his work.
He is known for his boldness in giving movement to concrete with perfect curves: “It is not the straight lines that attracts me. What catches my attention is the free curve”, he said.
How can we not to be attracted to the 108-metre building full of curves in front of the blue sea of São Conrado?
After spending a week covering Brazil's presidential elections in 2022, I decided to fulfill the dream of “that little girl” who was enthralled by the “magic” of the fireworks on television, this girl took over 40 years to enter the “glass cylinder”.
The structure was listed by the IPHAN - National Historic and Artistic Heritage Institute, a Federal institution - as a World Heritage Site in 1998, which is dedicated to art and history rather than the general public.
Upon entering the lobby, the most common question people ask is: “Is this a hotel or an art gallery?”. All around are pieces of art, including on the ceiling, the incredible 12-meter lamp by Pedro Correa de Araújo made of paper mache and features hand-shaped sheets of mermaid tail and hanging crystals that represent the splashing of sea water as a result of mermaids.
A panel by the Argentinian artist Carybé, who carved a mosaic on a concrete slab that tells the story of his favourite place: Bahia (northeastern Brasil), a wall 45 meters long and 3 meters wide that tells the story of Bahia and its characters.
The hotel’s symbol is “The Mermaid”, by the sculptor Alfredo Ceschiatti, one of Niemeyer's best friends. One of the works titled “A Justiça” was recently vandalized by terrorists on January 8, and it depicts a blindfolded and sword-wielding woman sitting in front of the Supreme Court in Brasilia (Brasil).
The gardens were designed by renowned landscaper Roberto Burle Marx to mirror a mermaid’s tail. Burle Marx, from the same Niemeyer school of modernism, also opted for the winding paths with curves and water mirrors with aquatic plants in the garden.
This is one of the places to see and admire the blue sea of São Conrado, which in turn embraces the Arpoador mountains.
The building is 32 floors high, and every room has a different view, which can dazzled you! Even on a cloudy or sunny day, it is impossible not to be amazed by the beautiful views of the sea and mountains.
Like any work of art, the Hotel Nacional allows for multiple interpretations, allowing us to see various aspects of São Conrado borough from different angles. Eduardo Borghetti, CEO of HN Empreendimentos, said:“This is a project of great responsibility and emotional appeal , not only for the people of Brasil but for the world as well. It is a project that empowers the historical and artistic nature of the vision of Niemeyer”. The company completed the construction and the restoration of the entire building between 2012 and 2016.
Borghetti emphasizes: “The hotel is a work of art and part of the history of Rio de Janeiro, where major festivals took place. The hotel’s many guests include artists such as Lisa Minelli, BB King, many jazz festivals and Formula 1 races players and officials. Today, we have a responsibility to have a modern, a contemporary hotel“, he said.
With the goal of returning to history, the hotel’s former theater is being renovated to become the stage for major plays in Rio de Janeiro, offering an alternative to the arts and culture that thrives in the city.
There is an amazing children's area in the hotel, full of toys, so I want to take me back to my childhood! Bilingual and professional supervisors conduct games. Floors and walls are covered to prevent children from falling, a real safe playground for children and peace of mind for parents.
The top floor of the hotel offers one of the most privileged views in Rio de Janeiro, as well as one of the best bars and restaurants: The View - Rio. Waiters appear to have the ability to interpret the thoughts of those who visit the restaurant. The View - Rio the minds of those who arrive at the restaurant. The View - Rio, international menu features a Brazilian flair. Additionally, the bartender’s role is to assist the patron in choosing drinks that are compatible with the dishes’s ingredients. Daniel, the bartender, kindly devised a drink solely based on my preferences: the Palion.
Would I return to the Hotel Nacional?
Of course! I almost overlooking mentioning: the unforgettable breakfast at the hotel's restaurant. I was astonished. To get up early and eat an interesting breakfast like this is like waking up in eutopia.
Since January, Brasil has been regenerated and received new lungs that have preserved the young and fragile democracy. Today, Brasil possesses a new democratic leader that is breathing new air into the democratic traditions f the country. I intend to travel to Rio de Janeiro for holidays. It’s not common for me to get the chance to sleep, dream and wake up amidst a piece of architectural art and one of the finest hotels in the world.
If the line is the shortest path between two points, the curve is what makes concrete look for infinity.