Pervasive cracks have been observed throughout the Oscar Niemeyer-designed Leonel de Moura Brizola National Library in the Brazilian capital city of Brasília. Opened in 2008, just four years before Niemeyer’s death at the age of 104, the 150,000-square-foot library is one of two structures that comprise the Complexo Cultural da República (“Cultural Complex of the Republic”) along Brasília’s Monumental Axis. The other is Niemeyer’s dome-topped National Museum of the Republic. Both are examples of the architect’s late third-wave work in Brasília and were followed by several other structures including the Brasília Digital TV Tower in 2012.
Brazilian news website Metrópoles (and later ArchDaily) first reported the news of the cracks, which were located “everywhere” throughout the reinforced concrete building’s walls and on its roof when discovered by a local fire brigade on November 19. According to Metrópoles, the cracks were so widespread that a report written after an official inspection to assess the damage described the findings to be a “very high-risk situation.” Most frighteningly, the cracks were observed as being the most extensive in the library’s elevator machine rooms.
When asked about the cracks, the press officer for the Secretary of Culture and Creative Economy responded: “Our architect informed us that the problem is not structural.”
A second technical inspection performed by Novacap, Brasília’s state-owned construction and public works agency, was scheduled for November 23. The results of that inspection are unknown and the library appears to still be open to the public on a daily basis. According to Metrópoles the library, named after a late Brazilian political figure and friend of Niemeyer who twice served as the governor of Rio de Janeiro, is a popular tourist spot and the “largest literary and study center in the Federal District.”
In August, Metrópoles also reported that the administration of Jair Bolsonaro, Brazil’s paranoid right-wing president, was seeking to add large, visually-disruptive anti-drone detection systems complete with cable-supported antennae to three of Brasília’s landmark presidential buildings: Planalto Palace, Alvorada Palace, and Jabiru’s Palace. The move prompted swift pushback from Brazil’s National Institute for Historic and Artistic Heritage (IPHAN).