The death of Oscar Niemeyer, at 104, caught my attention before Christmas which through the creation of Brasilia, Brazil’s capital, took me back to my school days – some moons ago.
|Composite of Brasilia: National Congress;|
Juscelino Kubitschek bridge; buildings of
Brasilia; Palacio da Alvorada;
I loved Geography and was fascinated when I found that Brasilia was in the middle of Brazil – not on a river ... but high on a jungle plateau. My attention was captured with the capital – we had London on a river, Paris on the Seine, Rome on the Tiber – weren’t all capitals built on rivers.
Capitals of countries and urban planning will make another interesting post – but today Niemeyer holds my attention ... especially as he influenced Dame Zaha Hadid (the Iraqi-British architect) who was commissioned to build the London Aquatics Centre at the Olympics and has designed many spectacularly different architectural projects around the world.
Back to Oscar ... he said in an interview in 2000, that “he’s not attracted to straight angles or to the straight line, hard and inflexible, created by man. I am attracted to free-flowing, sensual curves ...
... those 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.”
|Auditorium Oscar Niemeyer International|
Cultural Centre, Aviles, Spain
An ‘Influencer of the World’ – a man himself influenced by the giant of 20th century modern architecture, Le Corbusier, with whom he was able to collaborate during periods of his life.
Niemeyer was a visionary, who through his interpretation of those curves could be called the concrete poet ... he has nearly 600 buildings or complexes to his name ...
... he put Brazil on the architectural map and ‘saw’ the future of Brazil before Brazil itself did ... the civic buildings he designed in the new capital were all completed in a few years.
The National Congress of Brazil, the Cultural Complex of the Republic, the Palacio da Alvorada, the Palacio do Planalto, the Supreme Federal Court and the Cathedral of Brasilia were all largely experimental in nature, but linked with common design elements.
|A window in the Cathedral, Brasilia:|
showing the interior with angel sculptures
The atheist with leftist views was well aware of life’s injustices ... yet this never stopped him from designing religious buildings, which span from small Catholic chapels, through to huge Orthodox churches and large mosques.
He also catered to the spiritual beliefs of the public who facilitated his religious buildings ... the large glass windows in the Cathedral of Brasilia, he intended to “connect the people to the sky, where their Lord’s paradise is”.
He had in early life been influenced by the Dutch School – painters, designers, sculptors and architects of the 17th century, the medieval-Renaissance enlightened artists who exemplified the stylistic evolution ...
|Panorama including the church of St Francis of Assisi,|
Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais, SE Brazil (1943)
... those ‘disastrous’ buildings of Brasilia when opened in the 1950s – but then the world caught up and the miracle appeared – he had faith and passion by encouraging the architectural movement to change with the times and keep ahead of the game ...
The simple, frugal man worked from a very small studio in Rio: an inner sanctum for his books and where he received, then a studio room with no desks, no computers ... he never did drawings – he just did and presented his designs at one sitting ...
He had one or two assistants to hone the drawings into workable models, but the visionary eye stood him in good stead during those long years of work.
|The Serpentine Gallery Summer Pavilion|
(an annual temporary structure)
At age 96, Niemeyer was called to design the Serpentine Gallery Summer Pavilion in Hyde Park, London, a gallery that each year invites a famous architect, who never previously built in the UK, to design a temporary structure.
To quote The Guardian: And yet the pavilion very nearly failed to happen: the architect initially said no. He is, after all, a busy man running his studio pretty much every day of the year.
Julia Peyton-Jones, director of the Serpentine, flew to Rio to plead personally with Niemeyer and he gave in.
A sketch flew off his drawing board and was worked on by his long-time collaborator, the engineer Jose Carlos Sussekind. In London, Arups’ engineering team performed their magic and the structure was ready.”
|Perspective of the Oscar Niemeyer Museum|
showing the lenticular eye tower and gallery
space, the ramp leading to it, the reflecting
ponds below, and rectangular galleries behind.
Located in Curitiba - the 8th most populous city
in SE Brazil
He had the courage of his convictions throughout his long life – he tested boundaries, he went beyond, he took risks ... there was no cowardice, there was enthusiasm.
Niemeyer continued to talk the language of the young iconoclast of his youth ... we have to be ready to resist active mediocrity ... it is necessary to not be afraid of your passion.
He stirred my educational strings by designing the architectural elements of the new federal capital located in the Brazilian Highlands, and now once again stirs it ...
... Brasilia with its population of over 3 million is one of the largest cities in Brazil ... while it is the largest city in the world that did not exist at the beginning of the 20th century.
This weekend is Carnival time in Rio, where Niemeyer had an apartment overlooking Ipanema Beach, and where he had mostly lived, though he had a period of exile ...
... he died in his beloved city of Rio leaving behind innumerable thought provoking creations for us to marvel over as the years progress and to watch his visionary take on architecture continue to unfold.
I’ve been taken back, yet taken forward ... there’s much to appreciate that this incredible man has touched in his life time ... Brazil is the popular destination as far as the world and major events are concerned ... I am sure there will be opportunities to spend some time with Niemeyer’s work as the media explore Brazil for us.
The Guardian article: Oscar Niemeyer's Serpentine Pavilion 2003
Oscar Niemeyer - Wikipedia
Brasilia - Wikipedia
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