Hotel Nacional – a long-abandoned Rio de Janeiro landmark designed by Oscar Niemeyer – has reopened as a luxury resort after a major overhaul.
The cylindrical tower rises up from the beachfront of Rio’s São Conrado neighborhood, just a short drive from Niemeyer’s famous Das Canoas House. Designed by the Brazilian Modernist in the late 1960s and completed in 1972, the 33-storey building was first owned by banker Artur Falk, who eventually went bust.
Hotel Nacional’s last guests checked out in 1995, after which it lay derelict for over 20 years. Vandals stripped away its fittings and pop star Justin Bieber was charged with illegally graffitiing the tower in 2013.
A group helmed by businessman Marcelo Henrique Limírio Gonçalves bought the property in 2009 for a reported BRL $85 million (US $26 million). Now it has soft launched as a flagship for Meliá Hotels – officially opening in 15 January.
‘Nobody builds anything so expansive and generous anymore,’ says Rui Manuel Oliveira, vice president of the Meliá network in Brazil.
The five star Gran Meliá Nacional Rio – as it is now called – will hold 413 rooms and suites, two restaurants, three bars, and a rooftop helipad when complete, as well as extensive leisure, wellness and lifestyle facilities. A 129,000-square foot conference centre will open in 2018.
Niemeyer’s Hotel Nacional was landmarked by the city of Rio de Janeiro in 1998, meaning any redevelopment had to retain as much as possible of the original glass, steel and concrete structure. Meliá is reported to have invested roughly $130 million to bring the Nacional back to life.
Original artworks, such as Alfredo Ceschiatti´s ‘Mermaid’ sculpture, remain in tact.