Oscar Niemeyer – The Visionary Architect

Niterói Contemporary Art Museum

On December 15, 1907, famous Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer, who is considered to be one of the key figures in the development of modern architecture was born. Niemeyer was best known for his design of civic buildings for Brasília, a planned city which became Brazil’s capital in 1960, as well as his collaboration with other architects on the United Nations Headquarters in New York City.

Oscar Niemeyer began working at his father’s business shorty after graduating, but soon started his career as a draftsman in the architecture studio of Lucio Costa, Gregori Warchavchik, and Carlos Leão. Even though they could not pay the young architect, the three were a major influence in his later works. Especially Lucio Costa was important to him due to his writings on various techniques and simplicity influenced by the European style of art and architecture. One of Niemeyer’s first major works was the Ministry of Education and Health in Rio de Janeiro. Even though Lucio Costa was occupied with this building, he gave Niemeyer the chance to contribute himself and he was able to make up a great reputation with his drafts and ideas. The Ministry depicted the first modernist skyscraper in the world, that was government sponsored. Another major work by Niemeyer was a nursery he designed, and it was the first building he was able to finish himself.

Niemeyer’s fame increased over the years, especially after the famous Pampulha Project, which he designed several buildings, including a casino, a restaurant, a yacht club, and a colf club for. Niemeyer was highly celebrated for his work, his international fame grew rapidly and he soon was occupied with bank buildings churches and he later remained in the USA to work on the United Nation’s Headquarters drafts.

Niemeyer’s recognition had grown so fast in the 1950’s that several books, explaining his architecture, styles, and art. It was also in these years, when the Brazilian architect began to focus on concrete as a main material for his buildings.

In 1956, Juscelino Kubitschek, the President of Brazil turned to Oscar Niemeyer to assign one of the biggest thinkable projects to the architect, the Brasília. Together with his old master, Lucio Costa they developed a whole new city, with innovative ideas concerning city planning as well a socialist ideology. In it, laborers would be for instance living in the same houses as political leaders or businessmen. However, the President changed these plans later on, but still, Niemeyer’s masterpiece was a success. It was completely designed and built in between your years and the architect’s fame was unstoppable.

Even though, Niemeyer had often trouble with governments due to his diverse political views, his contributions to architecture all over the world were critical for the development of modern architecture. Oscar Niemeyer passed away very recently on December 5, 2012.

At yovisto, you may enjoy a video by Adrian Forty talking about ‘The metaphysics of concrete‘. In his lecture, he explains the importance of concrete to our daily lives as well as to modern architecture, since three tons of concrete are produced every year for each man, woman and child on Earth. He gives numerous examples of use in history and today, including Oscar Niemayer’s Niterói Contemporary Art Museum in Rio de Janeiro.

References and Further Reading:


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