Launch Slideshow

Oscar Niemeyer, Selected Projects

Oscar Niemeyer, Selected Projects

  • http://www.architectmagazine.com/Images/653338204_Niemeyer-Projects-1206-01_tcm20-1714379.jpg

    true

    600

    Imagens AMB

    Ministry of Education and Health building, Rio de Janeiro, 1943.

  • http://www.architectmagazine.com/Images/601970968_Niemeyer-Projects-1206-02_tcm20-1714380.jpg

    true

    600

    Bernardo Gouvêa

    Church of Saint Francis of Assisi, Belo Horizonte, Brazil, 1943.

  • http://www.architectmagazine.com/Images/805827745_Niemeyer-Projects-1206-03_tcm20-1714381.jpg

    true

    600

    Sarah and Iain

    Church of Saint Francis of Assisi, Belo Horizonte, Brazil, 1943.

  • http://www.architectmagazine.com/Images/1674738595_Niemeyer-Projects-1206-04_tcm20-1714382.jpg

    true

    600

    Steve Cadman

    United Nations Headquarters, New York, 1953.

  • http://www.architectmagazine.com/Images/1997914867_Niemeyer-Projects-1206-05_tcm20-1714383.jpg

    true

    600

    Library of Congress

    United Nations Headquarters, New York, 1953.

  • http://www.architectmagazine.com/Images/225310954_Niemeyer-Projects-1206-06_tcm20-1714384.jpg

    true

    600

    Mario Roberto Duran Ortiz

    National Congress Building, Brasília, Brazil, 1960.

  • http://www.architectmagazine.com/Images/248650684_Niemeyer-Projects-1206-07_tcm20-1714388.jpg?width=583

    true

    583

    João Felipe

    Cathedral of Brasília, Brasília, Brazil, 1960.

  • http://www.architectmagazine.com/Images/391646135_Niemeyer-Projects-1206-08_tcm20-1714391.JPG

    true

    600

    Ugkoeln

    Cathedral of Brasília, Brasília, Brazil, 1960.

  • http://www.architectmagazine.com/Images/1215944456_Niemeyer-Projects-1206-09_tcm20-1714395.jpg

    true

    600

    Cayambe

    Cathedral of Brasília, Brasília, Brazil, 1960. Interior.

  • http://www.architectmagazine.com/Images/401140225_Niemeyer-Projects-1206-10_tcm20-1714401.jpg

    true

    600

    Eric Gaba

    City Museum, Brasília, Brazil, 1960.

  • http://www.architectmagazine.com/Images/1293390805_Niemeyer-Projects-1206-11_tcm20-1714405.jpg

    true

    600

    Uri Rosenheck

    Palácio do Planalto, Brasília, Brazil,1960.

  • http://www.architectmagazine.com/Images/1885972956_Niemeyer-Projects-1206-12_tcm20-1714409.jpg

    true

    600

    {{{1}}}

    Palácio do Planalto, Brasília, Brazil,1960.

  • http://www.architectmagazine.com/Images/495003484_Niemeyer-Projects-1206-13_tcm20-1714415.JPG

    true

    600

    Florian Knorn

    National Museum of the Republic, Brasília , Brazil, 1960.

  • http://www.architectmagazine.com/Images/1319469918_Niemeyer-Projects-1206-14_tcm20-1714421.jpg

    true

    600

    Silvio Tanaka

    Edifício Copan, São Paulo, Brazil, 1966.

  • http://www.architectmagazine.com/Images/64404964_Niemeyer-Projects-1206-15_tcm20-1714425.jpg

    true

    600

    Victorgrigas

    Edifício Copan, São Paulo, Brazil, 1966.

  • http://www.architectmagazine.com/Images/1965990575_Niemeyer-Projects-1206-16_tcm20-1714428.JPG

    true

    600

    Luciomon

    Mondadori Group headquarters, Milan, 1975.

  • http://www.architectmagazine.com/Images/994177140_Niemeyer-Projects-1206-17_tcm20-1714433.jpg

    true

    600

    Rodrigo_Soldon

    Museum of Modern Art at Niterói, Rio de Janeiro, 1996.

  • http://www.architectmagazine.com/Images/2087881340_Niemeyer-Projects-1206-18_tcm20-1714436.jpg

    true

    600

    Eduardo P

    Museum of Modern Art at Niterói, Rio de Janeiro, 1996.

  • http://www.architectmagazine.com/Images/390152506_Niemeyer-Projects-1206-19_tcm20-1714437.jpg

    true

    600

    Phx de

    Museum of Modern Art at Niterói, Rio de Janeiro, 1996.

  • http://www.architectmagazine.com/Images/1170006411_Niemeyer-Projects-1206-20_tcm20-1714438.jpg

    true

    600

    Morio

    Oscar Niemeyer Museum, Curitiba, Brazil, 2002.

  • http://www.architectmagazine.com/Images/2046008194_Niemeyer-Projects-1206-21_tcm20-1714439.jpg

    true

    600

    Mauricio Mercer

    Oscar Niemeyer Museum, Curitiba, Brazil, 2002.

  • http://www.architectmagazine.com/Images/416063506_Niemeyer-Projects-1206-22_tcm20-1714440.jpg

    true

    600

    Zarateman

    Oscar Niemeyer International Cultural Centre, Avilés, Spain, 2011.

  • http://www.architectmagazine.com/Images/1172577681_Niemeyer-Projects-1206-23_tcm20-1714441.jpg

    true

    600

    Zarateman

    Oscar Niemeyer International Cultural Centre, Avilés, Spain, 2011.

  • http://www.architectmagazine.com/Images/575475867_Niemeyer-Projects-1206-24_tcm20-1714442.jpg?width=300

    true

    300

    H. Stern

    Oscar Niemeyer-designed jewelry for Brazilian jeweler H. Stern

I was deeply saddened to learn of the death of Oscar Niemeyer. He was an inspiration to me—and to a generation of architects. Few people get to meet their heroes, and I am grateful to have had the chance to spend time with him in Rio last year.

For architects schooled in the mainstream Modern Movement, he stood accepted wisdom on its head. Inverting the familiar dictum that form follows function, Niemeyer demonstrated instead that when a form creates beauty, it becomes functional and therefore fundamental in architecture.

It is said that when pioneering Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin visited Brasília, he likened the experience to landing on a different planet. Many people seeing Niemeyer's city for the first time must have felt the same way. It was daring, sculptural, colorful, and free—and like nothing else that had gone before. Few architects in recent history have been able to summon such a vibrant vocabulary and structure it into such a brilliantly communicative and seductive tectonic language.

One cannot contemplate Brasília's crown-like Cathedral of Brasília, for example, without being thrilled both by its formal dynamism and its structural economy, which combine to engender a sense almost of weightlessness from within, as the enclosure appears to dissolve entirely into glass. And what architect can resist trying to work out how the tapering, bone-like concrete columns of the Palácio da Alvorada are able to touch the ground so lightly. Brasília is not simply designed, it is choreographed; each of its fluidly-composed pieces seems to stand, like a dancer, on its points frozen in a moment of absolute balance. But what I most enjoy in Niemeyer's work is that even the individual building is very much about the public promenade, the public dimension.

As a student in the early 1960s, I looked to Niemeyer’s work for stimulation, poring over the drawings of each new project. Fifty years later, his work still has the power to startle us. His Niterói Contemporary Art Museum is exemplary in this regard. Standing on its rocky promontory like some exotic plant form, it shatters convention by juxtaposing art with a panoramic view of Rio harbour. It is as if—in his mind—Niemeyer had dashed the conventional gallery box on the rocks below and challenged us to view art and nature as equals. I have walked the museum’s ramps. They are almost like a dance in space, inviting you to see the building from many different viewpoints before you actually enter. I found it absolutely magical.

During our meeting last year, we spoke at length about his work—and he offered some valuable lessons for my own. It seems absurd to describe a 104 year old as youthful, but his energy and creativity were an inspiration. I was touched by his warmth and his great passion for life and for scientific discovery. He wanted to know about the cosmos and the world in which we live. In his words: “We are on board a fantastic ship!”

He told me that architecture is important, but that life is more important. And yet in the end his architecture is his ultimate legacy. Like the man himself, it is eternally youthful—he leaves us with a source of delight and inspiration for many generations to come.