A Taste of Arquitecture
Oscar Niemeyer - the king of Brazilian architecture

Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer was the king of the curve – his sinuous and stunning buildings helped give the country a modern visual voice from the 1940s onwards. Today, his concrete monuments are an essential part of any visitor's itinerary.
Many architects try to create something that outlives them, something that is bigger than themselves. Oscar Niemeyer was an architect who fought for designs that would serve everyone.
Oscar Niemeyer was a Brazilian architect considered to be 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 that became Brazil's capital in 1960, as well as his collaboration with other architects on the headquarters of the United Nations in New York. His exploration of the aesthetic possibilities of reinforced concrete was highly influential in the late 20th and early 21st centuries.

Both lauded and criticized for being a "sculptor of monuments", Niemeyer was hailed as a great artist and one of the greatest architects of his generation by his supporters. He said 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.

Niemeyer was educated at the Escola Nacional de Belas Artes at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, and after graduating, he worked at his father's typography house and 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 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 international attention. Throughout the 1940s and 1950s, Niemeyer became one of Brazil's most prolific architects, working both domestically 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 United Nations Headquarters, which yielded 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 Palácio da Alvorada, the Palácio do Planalto, and the Supreme Federal Court, all designed by 1960, were experimental and 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 left-wing ideology, and involvement with the Brazilian Communist Party (PCB), Niemeyer left the country after the 1964 military coup and 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 at the end of the 20th and early 21st century, notably designing the Niterói Contemporary Art Museum (1996) and the Oscar Niemeyer Museum (2002).

Over a career of 78 years he designed approximately 600 projects. Niemeyer died in Rio de Janeiro on December 5, 2012, at the age of 104, ten days before his 105th birthday.
The most prominent works of Oscar Niemeyer in Brazil
Brasília's Catedral Metropolitana Nossa Senhora Aparecida (1970) shares some characteristics with Frederick Gibberd's spiky one in Liverpool. It rains less in Brasília though – those huge blue skies flood light on to white concrete and pick out the space-age shapes that Niemeyer loved to play around with.
The most stunning location for a Niemeyer building is this promontory in Niterói, overlooking Guanabara Bay in Rio. He designed the Niterói Contemporary Art Museum (1996) at the age of 89 – though he continued working well past his 100th birthday, and in total produced more than 500 buildings. Niemeyer gave Brazil a visual voice and a fresh language.
Niemeyer was at the heart of the establishment when president Juscelino Kubitschek asked him and fellow Brazilian architect Lúcio Costa to whip up a new capital in Brasília in just a few years (1957-64). Niemeyer designed the National Congress building, seat of the government, in futuristic shapes at the end of a monumental avenue.
The Edificio Copan (1952-66) is a beast – it swerves like a giant wave, obliterating your sense of scale and perspective, and stamps its huge footprint in São Paulo's gritty Downtown. Street life ebbs and flows in and out of the amazing atrium, with its Mad Men bars and wood-panelled barber shops seemingly unchanged since the 1960s.
Oscar Niemeyer was a modernist concrete poet. But most of all he was king of the curve. The curves in his buildings were attempts to show his devotion to the female form. Oscar Niemeyer Museum in Curitiba (1967-2003) is called "The Eye", but it speaks with the sinuous slither of a hip, a thigh or a breast.
The Ibirapuera Auditorium is a building conceived by Oscar Niemeyer for the presentation of musical spectacles, situated in Ibirapuera Park in São Paulo. The auditorium completes the group of buildings in Ibirapuera park, as designed originally by the architect in the 1950s. Compared to the original proposal it is lacking only the access square that would separate it from the Oca, which would serve as the main entrance to the park.

The building possesses volumetric simplicity, composed of a single block that in plan has the form of a trapezoid and, in section, the form of a triangle. As well as the other buildings in the park such as the Oca dome, and a great part of the architect's work, the auditorium is composed of reinforced concrete painted white.
Niemeyer was a lifelong Marxist. Not much of a church-goer then – but he had no trouble designing buildings for believers, like the Sao Francisco de Assis catholic church near Belo Horizonte (1943). He got the painter Portinari to add some striking murals in ochre and blue as he sought to stir fine art into his architectural pot.
Designed by Niemeyer in 1951 as his family home, Das Canoas House is considered one of the most significant examples of modern architecture in Brazil and is well recognized by specialists in art history as a synthesis of modern architecture and authorial self-creation that flourished in Europe and America.
Considered a landmark of Brazilian architecture, Ministry of Education and Health (1936, Rio de Janeiro) is surrounded with symbolism and controversy. Symbolism because it was the first to use modern architecture as metaphor of Brazil's political and economic transformations, initiated with the revolution of 1930 when, after a coup d'état, Getúlio Vargas took the reins of government and set out to modernize the country.

The T-shaped floor plan combines two volumes of different heights: on ground floor, a one-story block on columns that contains the access, the auditorium and the exhibit area; the other wing, the administration tower of 14 floors plus attic, with three lines of circular-section pillars, glass surfaces on the southeast facade and adjustable horizontal slats of asbestos in the northwest one.

Niemeyer made some crucial suggestions, like the height of the columns, that went from 4 to 10 meters and so gave rise to the concept of monumentality in Brazilian architecture
Samba and football are central to Brazilian life. As a boy, Niemeyer used to go to the beach and play football every day. He also loved dancing and watching carnival queens. His Sambadrome on Rio's Marquês de Sapucaí Street (1984) is lit with a million bulbs during the culmination of carnival. It was also be a venue for the 2016 Olympics in Rio.

What is your favorite building constructed by Oscar Niemeyer?
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