The Niterói Contemporary Art Museum (Museu de Arte Contemporânea de Niterói — MAC) is situated in the city of Niterói, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and is one of the city’s main landmarks. It was completed in 1996. Designed by Oscar Niemeyer with the assistance of structural engineer Bruno Contarini, who had worked with Niemeyer on earlier projects, the MAC-Niterói is 16 meters high; its cupola has a diameter of 50 metres with three floors. The museum projects itself over Boa Viagem (“Bon Voyage,” “Good Journey”), the 817 square metres (8,790 sq ft) reflecting pool that surrounds the cylindrical base “like a flower,” in the words of Niemeyer. A wide access slope leads to a Hall of Expositions, which has a capacity for sixty people. Two doors lead to the viewing gallery, through which can be seen theGuanabara Bay, Rio de Janeiro, and Sugarloaf Mountain.
The saucer-shaped modernist structure, which has been likened to a UFO, is set on a cliffside, at the bottom of which is a beach. In the film Oscar Niemeyer, an architect committed to his century, Niemeyer is seen flying over Rio de Janeiro in a UFO which then lands on the site, suggesting this to be the origin of the museum. The MAC Scandal was a political scandal that occurred when the mayor João Sampaio inaugurated the Niterói Contemporary Art Museum. The MAC is located on a hill slope that had locked construction rights set by the city council. Therefore in December 1996, the new mayor, Jorge Roberto Silveira sent a project to the city council to obtain the rights to construction in that area. The project was accepted in only two days, giving permission to build buildings up to 40 metres (130 ft).
The city council did not know that days before, Zeca Mocarzel, sub-mayor of the Niterói’s Oceanic Region (of Jorge Roberto Silveira’s government) bought the lands at a very low price, claiming to the old owner that the region was locked and nothing could be done there. So he bought the area and, after the inauguration of the MAC which substantially increased the property values of the nearby areas, later sold the land for more than 5 million reals, approximately 1,250,000 US dollars at the time (2,720,000 dollars today). Because the scandal occurred just before Christmas, the people of Niterói said that it was Jorge Roberto Silveira, Zeca Mocarzel and João Sampaio’s (long-time Niterói’s politicians) “Christmas present”.