Oscar Ribeiro de Almeida Niemeyer Soares Filho, or simply Oscar Niemeyer, was one of the greatest architects in Brazil‘s history, and one of the greats of the global modernist movement. After his death in 2012, Niemeyer left the world more than five hundred works scattered throughout the Americas, Africa and Europe.
Niemeyer attended the National School of Fine Arts in Rio de Janeiro in 1929, graduating in 1934. He began working with the influential Brazilian architect and urban planner Lúcio Costa also in 1932, a professional partnership that would last decades and result in some of the most important works in the history of modern architecture.
In 1936, Niemeyer joined a team of Le Corbusier, Lúcio Costa, Affonso Eduardo Reidy, Carlos Leon, Jorge Moreira and Ernani Vasconcellos to design the headquarters of the Ministry of Education and Health, located in the center of Rio de Janeiro. Aged just 29 years, Niemeyer was assigned as a draftsman for Le Corbusier, however after Le Corbusier left Brazil the young prodigy made changes to the design that greatly impressed Lúcio Costa – so much so that by 1939 he appointed Niemeyer as the project’s lead architect. The building, a horizontal bar that intersects a vertical blade, was completed in 1945 and became the cornerstone of modern Brazilian architecture, attracting international attention.
In 1956, then-president Juscelino Kubitshek invited Niemeyer to participate in the largest urban and architectural work of the country’s history: the construction of the new capital in the middle of the savannah, Brasília.
Lúcio Costa, the masterplanner of the new capital, said in an interview with Ana Rosa de Oliveira in 1992: “when Juscelino became president, he had an architect in his pocket, Oscar Niemeyer. He was a pre-selected architect. This means that the competition was only for the city’s urban planning, the masterplan.” The collaboration of Costa and Niemeyer gave the world something entirely new: the first major city designed entirely on the basis of modernist principles of functionality and aesthetics.
Oscar Niemeyer was never a scholar, never interested in theories, jargon, clichés. His freeform, flowing lines were always accurate. Though he had strongly held political views, unlike some other Modernists they were not especially apparent in his work. His goal was simple and innocent: give beauty to the world. And he did.
See the gallery below for all of Niemeyer’s works featured here on ArchDaily, and the links below that for our articles on the great architect.
Video: Niemeyer Center / Oscar Niemeyer
Infographic: Oscar Niemeyer’s timeline
AD Interviews: Oscar Niemeyer
Oscar Niemeyer, Brazil’s Modernist Icon, Dies
Oscar Niemeyer, My Dear Old Friend
Quotes from Oscar Niemeyer (1907-2012)
Tribute to Oscar Niemeyer by Norman Foster
The work of Oscar Niemeyer, by Patricia Parinejad
Graffiti Artist’s Mural Honors Oscar Niemeyer
Night Photographs of Oscar Niemeyer’s Brasilia Win at the 2013 International Photography Awards
A Year Without Oscar
Norman Foster Talks Meeting Niemeyer
Spotlight: Oscar Niemeyer originally appeared on ArchDaily, the most visited architecture website on 15 Dec 2014.
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