Le Havre, World Heritage Site

Oscar Niemeyer's Cultural Centre by night.

The Niemeyer Cultural Centre

Officially inaugurated in November 1982, this building, all volumes and curves, imposes a lyrical presence in a strictly orthogonal urban environment. It was renovated and refurnished in 2014 and will welcome the new City Library in 2015.

Auguste Perret wanted the Place Gambetta to be once more the artistic and cultural centre of the city. But this was not to be.

Two masters of reinforced concrete

Oscar Niemeyer will be the one to fulfill Perret’s ambition between 1978 and 1982. Therefore the two masters of reinforced concrete show each other off: the free and fluid lines of Oscar Niemeyer echo the majestic and orthogonal ones of Auguste Perret in admirable fashion.

Brasilia – Le Havre

These two twentieth century cities belong to the World Heritage list: Le Havre, rebuilt after WWII, and the new city of Brasilia. Listed in 1987, the Capital of Brazil was created ex nihilo (from scratch) at the end of the 1950s, at the very centre of the country, by urbanist Lucio Costa and architect Oscar Niemeyer, who built particularly innovative official buildings there. The creation of Brasilia was a major event of the history of urbanism because of the challenge at stake, the enormous size of the project and monies involved.

Maison de la Culture

The Maison de la Culture (cultural centre) of Le Havre is one of the major projects famous sculptor-architect Oscar Niemeyer realized outside of his country, Brazil.

His architectural expression follows the tenets of Le Corbusier. Architecture here shows a veil of concrete painted white, free curving shapes trying to express architectural poetry. Loved, hated, misunderstood, acknowledged the world over, Oscar Niemeyer’s work leaves no-one unmoved. The Maison de la Culture is renamed Le Volcan (the Volcano) in 1990.

The Volcano

Hyperbolic, it is the largest building whose shell was calculated and drawn using a computer programme derived from a NASA one. There used to be 1 200 seats in the theatre, on an amphitheater lay-out, looking out over a 25,70 metre wide, 8,50 metre high stage. Nowadays it is part of the French National Stage scheme. The theatre was totally renovated in 2015, wood being the main material used: seats, flooring, entrance hall desks. A smaller theatre is available, used for shows for children and conferences.

The Oscar Niemeyer Library

A smaller hall used to present various artistic and theatre projects, concerts or dance shows. Nowadays, it has been turned into a modern Public library.


Outside view of Oscar Niemeyer's Cultural Centre.
Oscar Niemeyer's Cultural Centre.
Inside the Volcano.

For further research

The Volcano's full programme Visit website
Information about the Oscar Niemeyer Library Visit website