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Closed for 20 Years, Hotel Designed by Oscar Niemeyer Reopens in Rio

12/20/2016 - 10h54

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RAUL JUSTE LORES
SPECIAL ENVOY TO RIO

If true luxury is in the localization, the reborn Hotel Nacional is ostentatious. Right next to the Dois Irmãos (Two Brothers) hillside, with an unobstructed view of the Pedra da Gávea (Gávea Stone), and just steps from the São Conrado (Saint Conrado) beach in Rio.

For someone on the top of the 33-floor cylinder which was originally inaugurated in 1972, even the statue of Christ the Redeemer is visible.

Architect Oscar Niemeyer and businessman José Tjurs saw the space, an area of 15 thousand m2, as an ideal spot for the tallest hotel at the time in the country.

The 3,000 m2 lobby, without pillars, has a view of the sea. The gardens by Burle Max, cover 2,500 m2. "Nobody builds anything so expansive and generous anymore", says Rui Manuel Oliveira, Vice President of the Meliá network in Brazil, which will operate the recently reopened five star.

The last guests checked out in 1995. At the time, the hotel belonged to banker Artur Falk, of real estate agency Interunion, which was accused of fraud in the Papa-Tudo capitalization securities episode.

The hotel went broke and was place under federal intervention. During the next 20 years, it gradually turned into a stunning carcass. Artwork was stolen, the modernistic furniture was auctioned off and it gradually became a real estate myth.

In 2009, a group captained by Goias businessman Marcelo Limirio Gonçalves, former owner of the Neoquímica laboratory and a partner in Hypermarcas, bought the tower for R$ 85 million (US$ 25 million).

Afterwards they associated with the Spanish network Meliá and, in a long, drawn-out process, and with the Organ for Preservation of Rio's Historic Heritage Properties, IRPH, which allowed for very few alterations in the original project.

Folha visited the hotel on its first day of new operations, on Thursday (the 15th), the day of Niemeyer's birthday. The hotel is under a regimen of soft opening - a kind of rehearsal that will last for one month with 60 rooms already ready for occupancy.

On January 15th, the expectation is for all 413 rooms to be in operation. A restaurant, bar and spa should open up in February, and the convention center, a month later.

The cylindrical tower with a single façade allowed for views from all the rooms, since the Hotel Nacional's infrastructure, including elevators, was embedded in the middle of the construction. But the rooms, shaped like slices of pizza, don't make life easy for decorators.

Niemeyer himself probably didn't really want any tables or beds obstructing the panorama outside, visible through the floor-to-ceiling windows in the rooms.

Many of the rooms are angled towards the Rocinha hillside. The hotel made an arrangement to sponsor hospitality students from the community. Of the 300 employees in the renamed Gran Meliá Nacional, 100 are from the hillside community.

Translated by LLOYD HARDER

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