A giant equal to any football star, even his compatriot Pele, architect Oscar Niemeyer has died a week before his 105th birthday.
When building, Niemeyer had a giant’s vision, too. Nowhere was this starker than in his buildings for Brasilia, the capital which Brazil decided to erect in the ‘middle of nowhere’ to herald the 21st century. He built every edifice any capital would need: parliament, cathedral, concert hall, library, station, stadium, and more. It is a stunningly cohesive ensemble.
His style took in space-age forms in concrete and nods to neo-classicism, but had no room for the people who would have to use it; the vision was everything to Niemeyer, a single-minded pursuit of purity of form, and the beauty of a sweeping skyline. The international “Brazilian” style was born.
He began in the 1930s, and worked with Le Corbusier when he was visiting Brazil with his ideas about “machines for living in”. Niemeyer decided he would make machines of the future.
The ardent Communist fled Brazil’s dictators yet they approved his style as ‘nation-building’. He worked for international clients, including leaders of the left and right. He continued to create up until his final illness and death.
The UN building in New York, the nuclear-bunker-like Communist Party headquarters in Paris, sports stadia, housing blocks and museums are among his creations, many of which are in his home city, Rio de Janeiro.
And of Brasilia today, with its segregated, gated communities for the rich and satellite hovel towns? In 2001 Niemeyer said: “It seemed like a new era was coming, but Brazil is the same crap, a country of the very poor and very rich.”
- Palacio da Alvorada - Brasilia (Brazil), opening in 1958
- Copan - Sao Paulo (Brazil), opening in 1966
- Metropolitan Cathedral - Brasilia (Brazil), opening in 1970
- The Arnoldo Mondadori S.p.A. headquarters - Milan (Italy), opening in 1975
- National Congress - Brasilia (Brazil), opening in 1987
- Contemporary Art Museum (MAC) - Niteroi (Brazil), opening in 1996
- Niemeyer Center - Avilies (Spain), opening in 2011
- Niemeyer Museum - Curitiba (Brazil), opening in 2003
Selection of Oscar Niemeyer’s buildings