Oscar Niemeyer

Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer, was an invaluable contributor to Modernist Architecture & Design. Niemeyer is primarily celebrated for shaping the architecture of Brasília, Brazil’s new capital.
BY Nandita Agrawal on December 11, 2019
Oscar Niemeyer 1968 kernig krafts
Oscar Niemeyer, 1968

Born on December 15 in 1907 to a Typographer, Brazilian architect Oscar Ribeiro de Almeida Niemeyer Soares Filho, popularly known as Oscar Niemeyer, was an invaluable contributor to Modernist Architecture & Design. Niemeyer is primarily celebrated for shaping and defining the architecture of Brasília, Brazil’s new capital.

 Rio rocking chaise Oscar Niemeyer kernig krafts
Espasso collection, Rio Rocking Chaise by Oscar Niemeyer (via Dezeen)

“As an architect, my concern in Brasilia was to find a structural solution that would characterize the city's architecture.” 

After studying at the National School of Fine Arts, Rio de Janeiro (1929 to 1934), Niemeyer went on to work for his dean, a notable Modernist architect and urban planner, Lúcio Costa, as a draftsman. Costa, was working on the design of Ministry of Education and Health’s headquarters, and was later joined by Le Corbusier. This iconic building received International accolades for being the first Modernist design in Latin America!

Niemeyer  Andrew Prokos kernig krafts architecture
National Congress of Brazil by Niemeyer. Photographed by Andrew Prokos (via Dezeen)

An admirer of Le Corbusier, Niemeyer was greatly inspired by his work and even collaborated with him later on the United Nations Headquarters, in New York. Style wise, Niemeyer favoured free flowing curves and abstract shapes to straight angles and lines. His aesthetics were inspired by mountains and the sinuousness of rivers. He believed in adding beauty to the world and he did so by designing and creating captivating, curvaceous buildings.  

“For me beauty is valued more than anything — the beauty that is manifest in a curved line or in an act of creativity.”

Marquesa chaise kernig krafts Niemeyer  furniture
Espasso collection Marquesa Chaise by Oscar Niemeyer (via Dezeen)

The then mayor of Belo Horizonte, Juscelino Kubitschek, commissioned a complex that included a casino, golf club, restaurant, church, yacht club and a dance hall in 1941, which happened to be Niemeyer’s first individually designed project. Juscelino Kubitschek, later became the President of Brazil and in 1956, Niemeyer was appointed by him as the chief architect of Brasilia. Other buildings he designed are the Ministry of Justice building, the cathedral, the Brasília Palace Hotel, Ministry of Defense building and the President’s Palace, all in Brasília. 

Brasília oscar niemeyer Kernig krafts
Palácio do Planalto, President's official residence in Brasília by Oscar Niemeyer (via Dezeen)

At the time of political unrest, Niemeyer, being quite vocal about his strong political views had to leave the country, and go to Europe. His stint in Europe led him to design buildings and contribute to the architecture there. In early 1980s he came back to Brazil, and was warmly welcomed with a plethora of commissions.

Niemeyer  Andrew Prokos kernig krafts architecture
Praça Duque de Caxias. Photographed by Andrew Prokos (via Dezeen)

He died at the age of 104, having successfully completed about six hundred projects! Niemeyer was the recipient of the prestigious, Pritzker Architecture Prize in 1988, which he shared with Gordon Bunshaft, Lenin Peace Prize in 1963 and the Japan Art Association’s Praemium Imperiale prize for architecture in 2004. 

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