“I am not attracted to straight angles or to the straight line, hard and inflexible, created by man. I am attracted to free-flowing, sensual curves. The curves that I find in the mountains of my country, in the sinuousness of its rivers, in the waves of the ocean, and on the body of the beloved woman. Curves make up the entire Universe, the curved Universe of Einstein.”
Oscar Niemeyer, 15 December 1907 – 5 December 2012
Oscar Ribeiro de Almeida Niemeyer Soares Filho (15 December 1907 – 5 December 2012), known as Oscar Niemeyer, was a Brazilian architect who is considered one of the key figures in the development of modern architecture. Niemeyer was best known for his design of civic buildings for Brasília, a planned city which became Brazil’s capital in 1960, as well as his collaboration with other architects on the United Nations Headquarters in New York City. His exploration of the aesthetic possibilities of reinforced concrete was highly infuential on the architecture of the late 20th and early 21st centuries.
Both lauded and criticized for being a “sculptor of monuments”, Niemeyer was praised for being a great artist and one of the greatest architects of his generation by his supporters. He claimed his architecture was strongly influenced by Le Corbusier, but in an interview, assured that this “didn’t prevent [his] architecture from going in a different direction”. Niemeyer was most famous for his use of abstract forms and curves that characterize most of his works.
Born in Rio de Janeiro, Niemeyer was schooled at the city’s Escola Nacional de Belas Artes, and after graduating worked at his father’s typography house, as well as as a draftsman for local architectural firms. In the 1930s, he interned with Lúcio Costa, with the pair collaborating on the design for the Palácio Gustavo Capanema in Rio de Janeiro. Niemeyer’s first major project was the design of a series of buildings for Pampulha, a planned suburb north of Belo Horizonte. His work, especially on the Church of Saint Francis of Assisi, received critical acclaim, and drew Niemeyer international attention. Throughout the 1940s and 1950s, Niemeyer became one of Brazil’s most prolific architects, designing a range of buildings both within the country and overseas. This included the design of the Edifício Copan (a large residential building in São Paulo), and a collaboration with Le Corbusier (and others) on the design of the United Nations Headquarters, which provoked invitations to teach at Yale University and the Harvard Graduate School of Design.
In 1956, Niemeyer was invited by Brazil’s new president, Juscelino Kubitschek, to design the civic buildings for Brazil’s new capital, which was to be built in the centre of the country, far from any existing cities. His designs for the National Congress of Brazil, the Cathedral of Brasília, the Cultural Complex of the Republic, the Palácio da Alvorada, the Palácio do Planalto, and the Supreme Federal Court, all completed by 1960, were largely experimental in nature, and were linked by common design elements. This work led to his appointment as inaugural head of architecture at the University of Brasília, as well as honorary membership of the American Institute of Architects. Due to his largely leftist ideology, and involvement with the Brazilian Communist Party (PCB), Niemeyer left the country after the 1964 military coup, and subsequently opened an office in Paris. He returned to Brazil in 1985, and was awarded the prestigious Pritzker Architecture Prize in 1988. A socialist and atheist from an early age, Niemeyer had spent time in both Cuba and the Soviet Union during his exile, and on his return served as the PCB’s president from 1992 to 1996. Niemeyer continued working well into the early 21st century, notably designing the Niterói Contemporary Art Museum (1996) and the Novo Museu (2002).
He died in Rio de Janeiro in December 2012, at the age of 104.
HIS MOST IMPORTANT MASTERPIECE PROJECTS:
Early works (1930’s)
1936 – Ministério da Educação e Saúde (English: Ministry of Education and Health) – contributed to the Le Corbusier project.
1937 – Associação Beneficente Obra do Berço (Association of Charitable Work) – created a vertical brise soleil.
1938 – Grande Hotel de Ouro Preto
1939 – Brazil’s pavilion at 1939 New York World’s Fair – contributed to the Lucio Costa project.
1940’s and 1950’s
1940 – Church of Saint Francis of Assisi and other buildings at Pampulha in Belo Horizonte, southeastern Brazil.
1946 – Sede do Banco Boavista (headquarters of Banco Boavista) in Candelaria, Rio de Janeiro.
1946 – Colegio Cataguases (Odessa College).
1947 – United Nations Headquarters in New York City.
1951 – Ibirapuera Park (with landscape architect Roberto Burle Marx).
1951 – JK Building (Juscelino Kubitschek).
1951 – Edifício Copan (Copan Building) 38-story residential building in São Paulo, Brazil.
1952 – Casa das Canoas – Niemeyer’s personal home in Canoas, Rio de Janeiro.
1954 – Residência Cavanelas.
1954 – Museu de Arte Moderna em Caracas (Museum of Modern Art in Caracas) .
1954 – Interbau buildings project in the Hansaviertel district, part of the reconstruction of Berlin.
1954 – Edifício Montreal (Montreal Building) in São Paulo.
1955 – Edifício Califórnia (California Building) in downtown São Paulo (with Carlos Lemos).
1955 – Edifício Triângulo (Triangle Building), São Paulo.
1956 – Edifício Eiffel (Eiffel Building) located in Republic Square, São Paulo.
1956 – Residência Provisória do Presidente da República (Provisional Residence of the President).
1958 – Hospital da Lagoa (Lagoa Hospital) built in Lagoa, Rio de Janeiro.
Buildings in Brasília – At Brasília, Niemeyer designed:
1956 – Residência Provisória do Presidente da República (Catetinho).
1957 – Eixo Monumental (Monumental Axis).
1957 – Palácio da Alvorada (English: Palace of Dawn) Presidential residence.
1958 – Catedral Metropolitana Nossa Senhora Aparecida (Cathedral of Brasília).
1958 – Church of Our Lady of Fatima (“Igrejinha Nossa Senhora de Fátima”/”A Igrejinha da 307/308 Sul”)
1958 – National Congress of Brazil (Congresso Nacional).
1958 – Supremo Tribunal Federal or STF (Supreme Federal Tribunal) Federal Supreme Court.
1958 – Palácio do Planalto (Palace of the Highlands) Presidential office.
1958 – Teatro Nacional Cláudio Santoro (National Theater).
1959 – Palácio do Jaburu (Palace of the Jabiru) Vice-presidential residence.
1960 – Praça dos Três Poderes (Square of the Three Powers).
1960 – Cine Brasília.
1962 – Palácio do Itamaraty (Ministry of External Relations).
1962 – Ministério da Justiça or “Palácio da Justiça” (Ministry of Justice).
1962 – Universidade de Brasília main building, the Central Institute of Science (Instituto Central de Ciências, ICC).
1965 – Aeroporto de Brasilia (Project was never built).
1985 – Panteão da Pátria e da Liberdade Tancredo Neves (Pantheon of the Fatherland and Freedom).
1986 – Casa do Cantador (Palácio da Poesia).
1987 – Memorial dos Povos Indígenas (Memorial of the Aboriginal Peoples) .
1995 – Superior Tribunal de Justiça.
2002 – Sede da Procuradoria Geral da República Brasileira (Attorney General’s Office).
2006 – Cultural Complex of the Republic (Complexo Cultural da República).
Biblioteca Nacional Leonel de Moura Brizola (National Library of Brasília).
Museu Nacional Honestino Guimarães (National Museum Honestino Guimarães).
2006 – Tribunal Superior do Trabalho.
2008 – Sede da Ordem dos Advogados do Brasil.
2011 – Tribunal Superior Eleitoral.
2012 – Torre de Televisão Digital (Brasília Digital Television Tower).
Exile years (1965-85)
1962 – Feira Internacional e Permanente do Líbano (International Fair and Permanent Exhibition Hall in Lebanon).
1963 – University of Haifa, Israel.
1965 – Sede do Partido Comunista Francês (“PCF”) The French Communist Party headquarters, in Paris.
1968 – Centro Musical, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
1968 – Sede da Editora Mondadori (Mondadori publishing headquarters) in Italy.
1968 – Centro Cívico de Argel (Civic Center of Algiers).
1968 – Mesquita de Argel (Mosque of Algiers).
1969 – University of Science and Technology – Houari Boumediene in Algeria, also known as the University of International Excellence.
1969- University of Constantine in Constantine, Algeria
1972 – Bolsa do Trabalho de Bobigny (Stock exchange of Bobigny, France) – auditorium.
1975 – Fata Engineering Headquarters in Italy.
1976 – Casino da Madeira (Pestana Casino Park) on Madeira Island, Portugal.
1980 – JK Memorial (Juscelino Kubitschek).
1981 – Ilha de Lazer em Abu Dhabi (Leisure Island in Abu Dhabi).
1982 – Centro Integrado de Educação Pública (Integrated Center for Public Education) CIEP public school system..
1982 – Centro Cultural de Le Havre, “Le Volcan” (Le Havre Cultural Center, “The Volcano”).
1983 – Sambadrome Marquês de Sapucaí (Sambadrome) in Rio de Janeiro.
1983 – Praça da Apoteose (Apotheosis Square) at the end of Marquês de Sapucaí Street.
1985 – Panteão da Liberdade e da Democracia Tancredo Neves (Pantheon of Liberty and Democracy Tancredo Neves).
Return to Brasil (1985 to present)
1987 – Latin America Memorial (Memorial da América Latina) in São Paulo.
1988 – Terminal Rodoviário de Londrina (Londrina Bus Terminal) in Paraná, Brazil.
1991 – Niterói Contemporary Art Museum (Museu de Arte Contemporânea “MAC”)
1991 – Latin American Parliament (Parlamento Latino Americano) in São Paulo.
1993 – Anhembi Sambadrome (Sambódromo do Anhembi) in São Paulo.
1997 – Caminho Niemeyer (Niemeyer Way) Theater, museums, restaurant, village square.
1999 – Ibirapuera Auditorium (Auditório do Ibirapuera) in Ibirapuera Park, São Paulo.
2000 – Auditório em Ravello, Italy.
2001 – Oscar Niemeyer Museum (Museu Oscar Niemeyer).
2003 – Serpentine Gallery Pavilion.
2004 – Itaipu Binacional – Brasil (Itaipu Dam in Brazil).
2005 – Itaipu Binacional – Paraguai (Itaipu Dam in Paraguay).
2006 – Centro Cultural Principado de Astúrias (Avilés, Principality of Asturias Cultural Center).
2006 – Natal City Park, Rio Grande do Norte.
2006 – Estação Cabo Branco (Cape White Station) in João Pessoa, capital of the State of Paraíba.
2007 – Popular Theatre of Niteroi, (Teatro Popular de Niteroi).
2007 – Cultural Center in Valparaiso, Chile (Centro Cultural em Valparaíso).
2007 – University of Information Science (Universidade de Ciências e Informática), Havana, Cuba.
2008 – Puerto de La Musica, Rosário, Argentina.
2008 – Parque da Cidade Dom Nivaldo Monte (City Park) in Natal, in Brazil’s state of Rio Grande do Norte.
2009 – Centro Administrativo de Minas Gerais.
2010 – Auditorium Oscar Niemeyer Ravello, Amalfi Coast, Italy.
2011 – Parque Dona Lindu (City Park) in Recife, in Brazil’s state of Pernambuco.
2011 – Óscar Niemeyer International Cultural Centre in the Principality of Asturias, Spain.