THE famous Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer has given up having his obelisk built in Brasilia, at least for the time being, according to a story splashed across the front page of the Correio Brasiliense this morning.
The paper had been running a series of articles on the controversial new monument that was supposed to be built on the Esplanada do Ministerios and be ready for Brasilia's 50th anniversary in 2010. Niemeyer contributed several articles to the debate which sparked fierce criticism from architects and the general public in the Brazilian capital, who feared that yet another ill-thought monument would only worsen the already cluttered Esplanada.
The daughter of Lucio Costa, the urban designer of the capital, was also against the soaring obelisk, saying that it would ruin the view from the central bus station that her father designed. Interestingly, Isto E magazine this week pointed out that Niemeyer's obelisk bore an uncanny resemblance to a Soviet space monument built in 1964, the only difference being that the Soviet one has a spacecraft at the tip of the obelisk.
Since Niemeyer was a die-hard Communist in the 1950s and 1960s, it is not surprising that he would want to emulate a Soviet landmark.
A good friend of mine in Rio told me that Niemeyer, who is 101 years old, is allegedly under constant pressure from his many children and grandchildren to help them out financially, which may explain why he is still churning out and advocating so many projects at his advanced age.
The Governor of the Distrito Federal Jose Arruda put the final nail in the coffin of Niemeyer's obelisk when he said the project would have to be put on hold because of a "lack of funds" because of the global economic crisis. To me that sounds too coincidental. Wasn't it not the same Arruda who so enthusiastically welcomed Niemeyer to Brasilia in December to discuss the project? Then it seemed like a done deal. But now, after weeks of public outcry and the campaign by the Correio, the governor suddenly backtracks and says there is not enough money for it! Looks like he's bending his will to public opinion, as all good politicians do.