After an eight-year rehabilitation period, Rio de Janeiro’s Hotel Nacional is en route to being restored to its once internationally acclaimed grandeur. Designed by the late Brazilian modernist Oscar Niemeyer, the cylindrilcal site was completed in 1972, and enjoyed a period of prosperity, frequently hosting cultural icons such as Liza Minnelli, B.B. King, and James Brown.
But by the 1990s the hotel once revered as the best in the Marvelous City was dwindling due to a downturn of business and a rise in crime in its neighborhood of São Conrado. It finally closed in 1995 under the ownership of banker Artur Falk, and for about 15 years after that, the building fell into severe disrepair. Despite it’s landmark designation—received in 1998—interior fixtures were stripped from the building, and it became a hub for homeless population seeking refuge. Parts of the lower levels were peppered with graffiti, some of which were carried out by a certain Canadian pop star. However, things started looking up for the building in 2009 when it was purchased for 85 million reals (about $26 million).
Now, after the hotel's Jan. 9 opening carried out by luxury hotel developer Gran Meliá, the 34-story structure is prepping for all 413 rooms to be open for visitors by the middle of January this year. Its reimagined restaurant, bar, and spa will open in February, and the convention center in March.
Inside, visitors first walk through a roughly 32,000-square-foot lobby which leads into a massive, 27,000-square-foot garden designed by celebrated Brazilian landscape architect Roberto Burle Marx. The outdoor space also features the building's famous mermaid sculpture created by Brazilian artist Alfredo Ceschiatti.
Pictures of the renovations have yet to be released.