OSCAR NIEMEYER

The seminal architect, Niemeyer died last year at the age of 104. He worked until the very end of his life and left an indelible mark in today’s architecture. Few architects have been as influential and worshiped as Niemeyer. We mostly know him for his design for Brazil’s utopian capital city of Brasilia. Brasilia emerged from the edge of the jungle and it was the product of the dreams of Brazil’s idealistic president Juscelino Kubitscheck who hoped it would open the vast resources of this country’s interior. Brasilia’s radical, brave architecture brought world attention to Niemeyer. He was the master of reinforced concrete and with it he created an architecture that echoed the soft curves of the topography of his country, the domes of its Baroque churches and as he said “the curves of the many women he loved.” His curves were very different from the computer-generated curves of Zaha Hadid and the opposite of the linear architecture of many of today’s prominent architects such as the Snohetta group.

Niemeyer was the youngest member of the team that, with Le Corbuiser, designed the UN building in New York. My favorite Niemeyer structure was the modest temporary pavilion he designed for the Serpentine in London. This single-gesture design encapsulated the genius of his flawless architecture. Many of his masterpieces like the Church of Saint Francis of Assisi, the Niteroi Contemporary Museum, the National Congress building and the Itamaraty Palace are in his beloved Brazil. Partially and because of his strong communist beliefs, he did little work in this country and in Europe.

Two great tributes to this master were published after his death. One, with beautiful photographs by Todd Eberle, appears in this month’s issue of Wallpaper. The other was the obituary published by The Economist. He imagined the perfect city and his work inspired visions of the future.

Gabriella de Ferrari

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