Barra da Tijuca’s Forgotten Skyscraper

Sitting here, forgotten, at the bottom of ol’ San José, you develop a connection or a kind of kinship with all the other forgotten things in the world. For instance, the forgotten skyscraper of Barra da Tijuca.  I’d never even heard of it before, until fate brought us together in Brazil back around 2004. I’d been traveling for many days, the world just a blur out the window, when the bus stopped for awhile in a city called Barra da Tijuca. I couldn’t help but notice the two round skyscrapers standing side by side across the highway. They were identical, except one building was surrounded by cars and the apartment patios were full of activity. It was obvious people lived there, and yet, sitting just yards away, its giant twin sat. Dull, lifeless, and totally empty.

I ordered a cafezinho (which is Brazilian Portuguese for “a little coffee”) from one of the many street vendors. Sipping the sweet black coffee, I asked the vendor about the empy building. He said it was called the “Torre Abraham Lincoln” and has sat empty since construction was halted in 1972. The other tower, the one with people living in it, was called, “Torre Charles de Gaule”. They were the two tallest skyscraper’s in Barras.

They were originally part of a plan to build 76 circular buildings across the city, each named after an influential person. The idea was to preserve as much natural area as possible, while providing homes for a rapidly growing population. But problems arose, scandals came to light and soon the project was reduced to three towers. Two towers were in built in Barras, while the third was finally built in Rio de Janeiro. They named it “Torre Ernest Hemingway,” and is only open to the rich people of Brazil. The vendor says the local’s call the empty building “The Forgotten Skyscraper.” When new plans for the old building are announced, they quickly fade away and are forgotten.

So here we are, many years later. The Torre Abraham Lincoln still sits (I checked using google map, and it’s still there). Forgotten and alone. I can relate to that.



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