Oscar Niemeyer


The Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer began his career as an orthodox modern architect, subscribing thoroughly to this universalist credo. He was born in Rio de Janeiro in 1907 – and developed a passion for architecture in his early teens. When he went to study at the National School of Fine Arts, he fell in with a group that venerated the great European Modernist architects, especially Le Corbusier – who had insisted with particular vehemence on making sure buildings made no concession whatever to the culture in which they were located. In 1956, Niemeyer was invited by Brazil's new president, Juscelino Kubitschek, to design the civic buildings for Brazil's new capital, which was to be built in the centre of the country, far from any existing cities. His designs for the National Congress of Brazil, the Cathedral of Brasilia, the Palácio de Alvorada, the Palácio do Planalto and the Supreme Federal Court, all designed by 1960, were experimental and linked by common design elements. This work led to his appointment as inaugural head of architecture at the University of Brasília, as well as honorary membership of the American Institute of Architects. Due to his largely left-wing ideology, and involvement with the Brazilian Communist Party, Niemeyer left the country after the 1064 military coup and opened an office in Paris. He returned to Brazil in 1985, and was awarded the prestigious Pritzker Architecture Prize in 1988. Niemeyer continued working at the end of the 20th and early 21st century, notably designing the Niterói Contemporary Art Museum (1996) and the Oscar Niemeyer Museum (2002). Over a career of 78 years he designed approximately 600 projects. Niemeyer died in Rio de Janeiro on December 5, 2012, at the age of 104.