Oscar Ribeiro de Almeida Niemeyer Soares Filho will always be remembered as a key figures in the development of modern architecture.
Niemeyer was born and raised in Rio de Janeiro where he attended the Escola Nacional de Belas Artes. His first work experience was for his father’s typography house and as a draftsman for local architectural firms. In the 1930’s he became an intern for Lucio Costa and they ended up working together on the Palacio Gustavo Capanema in Rio de Janeiro. From there on started his successful career. His work, especially on the Church of Saint Assisi drew international attention to him. In the 1956 Brazil’s new president Juscelino Kubitschek asked him to built a range of civic buildings in the centre of the country, far away from any existing city.He started with a range of 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. These buildings were largely experimental in nature, and were linked by common design elements. This led to his appointment to head of architecture at the University of Brasilia and honorary membershiop of the American Institute of Architects.
His involvment in the Brazilian Communist Party and leftist ideology made that Niemeyer left the country after the military coup in 1964. HE soon opened an office in Paris and only returned to Brazil in 1985 and got rewarded with the prestigious Pritzker Architecture Prize in 1988. Niemeyer continued working well into the early 21st century, notably designing the Niterói Contemporary Art Museum (1996) and the Novo Museu (2002). He died yesterday in Rio de Janeiro in December 2012 at the age of 104.
Although he was both lauded and criticized throughout his career, Niemeyer will go into history as an artist and one of the greatest architects of his time. Strongly inspired by Le Corbusier, his work is mostly famous for its abstract forms and curves.
“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.” as he wrote in his memoirs.