Oscar Niemeyer in the 1950s
|Born||Oscar Ribeiro de Almeida Niemeyer Soares Filho
December 15, 1907
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
|Died||December 5, 2012
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
|Alma mater||Escola Nacional de Belas Artes (1934)|
|Influenced by||Le Corbusier
|Awards||1963 Lenin Peace Prize
1988 Pritzker Prize
1989 Prince of Asturias Awards
1998 RIBA Royal Gold Medal
2004 Praemium Imperiale
|Buildings||Palácio da Alvorada
Cathedral of Brasília
National Congress of Brazil
United Nations headquarters
Niterói Contemporary Art Museum
Latin America Memorial
Gustavo Capanema Palace
|Projects||Museum of Modern Art of Caracas|
Oscar Ribeiro de Almeida Niemeyer Soares Filho (December 15, 1907 – December 5, 2012), known as Oscar Niemeyer (Brazilian Portuguese: [ɔʃˈkaʁ ˈniemajeʁ]), was a Brazilian architect who is considered to be one of the key figures in the development of modern architecture. 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. His exploration of the aesthetic possibilities of reinforced concrete was highly influential on the architecture of the late 20th and early 21st centuries.
Both lauded and criticized for being a "sculptor of monuments", Niemeyer was praised for being a great artist and one of the greatest architects of his generation by his supporters. He said his architecture was strongly influenced by Le Corbusier, but in an interview, assured that this "didn't prevent [his] architecture from going in a different direction". Niemeyer was most famous for his use of abstract forms and curves that characterize most of his works, and wrote in his memoirs:
|“||I am not attracted to straight angles or to the straight line, hard and inflexible, created by man. I am attracted to free-flowing, sensual curves. The 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.||”|
Born in Rio de Janeiro, Niemeyer was schooled at the city's Escola Nacional de Belas Artes, and after graduating worked at his father's typography house, as well as a draftsman for local architectural firms. In the 1930s, he interned with Lúcio Costa, with the pair collaborating on the design for the Palácio Gustavo Capanema in Rio de Janeiro. Niemeyer's first major project was the design of a series of buildings for Pampulha, a planned suburb north of Belo Horizonte. His work, especially on the Church of Saint Francis of Assisi, received critical acclaim, and drew Niemeyer international attention. Throughout the 1940s and 1950s, Niemeyer became one of Brazil's most prolific architects, designing a range of buildings both within the country and overseas. This included the design of the Edifício Copan (a large residential building in São Paulo), and a collaboration with Le Corbusier (and others) on the design of the United Nations Headquarters, which engendered invitations to teach at Yale University and the Harvard Graduate School of Design.
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 Brasília, the Cultural Complex of the Republic, the Palácio da Alvorada, the Palácio do Planalto, and the Supreme Federal Court, all completed by 1960, were largely experimental in nature, and were 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 leftist ideology, and involvement with the Brazilian Communist Party (PCB), Niemeyer left the country after the 1964 military coup, and subsequently opened an office in Paris. He returned to Brazil in 1985, and was awarded the prestigious Pritzker Architecture Prize in 1988. A socialist and atheist from an early age, Niemeyer had spent time in both Cuba and the Soviet Union during his exile, and on his return served as the PCB's president from 1992 to 1996. 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, ten days before his 105th birthday.
Early life and education 
Niemeyer was born in the city of Rio de Janeiro on December 15, 1907. He took his German surname from a German Brazilian grandmother with roots in Hanover, Germany. Niemeyer explained, “my name ought to have been Oscar Ribeiro de Almeida de Niemeyer Soares, or simply Oscar de Almeida Soares, but the foreign surname prevailed and I am known simply as Oscar Niemeyer”. He spent his youth as a typical young Carioca of the time: bohemian and relatively unconcerned with his future. In 1928, at age 21, Niemeyer left school (Santo Antonio Maria Zaccaria priory school) and married Annita Baldo in 1928, daughter of Italian immigrants from Padua.
Early career 
After graduating, he started to work in his father's typography house. Even though he was not financially stable at the time, he insisted in working in the architecture studio of Lucio Costa, Gregori Warchavchik and Carlos Leão, even though they could not pay him. Niemeyer joined the studio as a draftsman, an art that he mastered (Corbusier himself would later compliment Niemeyer's 'beautiful perspectives'). The contact with Lucio Costa would be extremely important in the professional maturity of Niemeyer's work. It was Costa who, after an initial flirtation with the Neocolonial movement, realized that the current advances of the international style in Europe were the only true manifestation of a contemporary architecture. His writings on the technical truth and simplicity which united the traditional colonial architecture of Brazil (such as that in Olinda) and the modernist principles would be the basis of the architecture which would be later realized by Niemeyer and his contemporaries, such as Affonso Eduardo Reidy.
In 1936, at 29, Lucio Costa was appointed by the Education Minister Gustavo Capanema to design the new headquarters of the Ministry of Education and Health in Rio de Janeiro. Since Costa himself, though convinced of the required modernity, was unsure of the modern language to be used, he gathered a group of young architects (Carlos Leão, Affonso Eduardo Reidy, Jorge Moreira and Ernani Vasconcellos) to design the building. He also insisted that Le Corbusier himself should be invited as a consultant. Though Niemeyer was not initially included in the team, Costa agreed for him to join after his insistence. During the period of Le Corbusier's stay in Rio, Niemeyer was appointed to help him with the drafts, which allowed him a close contact with the Swiss master. After his departure, Niemeyer's significant changes to Corbusier's scheme impressed Lucio Costa to an extent that he progressively started to take charge of the project, of which he assumed the leadership in 1939.
The Ministry which had assumed the task of shaping the ‘novo homem, Brasileiro e moderno’ (new man, Brazilian and modern), was the first state-sponsored modernist skyscraper in the world, and of a much larger scale than anything Le Corbusier had built until then. Completed in 1943, when he was 36 years old, the building which housed the regulator and manager of Brazilian culture and cultural heritage developed the elements of what was to become recognized as Brazilian modernism. It employed local materials and techniques, like the azulejos linked to the Portuguese tradition; the revolutionized Corbusian brises-soleil, made adjustable and related to the Moorish shading devices of colonial architecture; bold colors; the tropical gardens of Roberto Burle Marx; the Imperial Palm (Roystonea oleracea), known as the Brazilian order; further allusions to the icons of the Brazilian landscape; and specially commissioned works by Brazilian artists. This building is considered by some architects as one of the most influential of the 20th century, being taken as a model on how to dialogue low- and high-rise structures (Lever House).
In 1939, at age 32, Niemeyer and Lucio Costa designed the Brazilian pavilion for the New York World's Fair (executed in collaboration with Paul Lester Wiener). Neighbouring the much larger French pavilion, the Brazilian structure contrasted with its heavy mass. Costa explained that the Brazilian Pavilion adopted a language of ‘grace and elegance’, lightness and spatial fluidity, with an open plan, curves and free walls, which he termed ‘Ionic’, contrasting it to the mainstream contemporary modernist architecture, which he termed ‘Doric’. Impressed by its avant-garde design, Mayor Fiorello La Guardia awarded Niemeyer the keys to the city of New York.
In 1937, Niemeyer was invited by a relative to design a nursery for philanthropic institution which catered for young mothers, the Obra do Berço. It would become his first finalised work. However, Niemeyer has claimed that his architecture really began in Pampulha, Minas Gerais, and as he explained in an interview, Pampulha was the starting point of this freer architecture full of curves which I still love even today. It was in fact, the beginning of Brasília....
The Pampulha Project 
In 1940, at 33, Niemeyer met Juscelino Kubitschek, who was at the time the mayor of Belo Horizonte, capital of the state of Minas Gerais. Kubitschek, together with the state's governor Benedito Valadares, wanted to develop a new suburb to the north of the city called Pampulha and commissioned Niemeyer to design a series of buildings which would become known as the "Pampulha architectural complex". The complex included a casino, a restaurant/dance hall, a yacht club, a golf club and a church, all of which would be distributed around a new artificial lake. A weekend retreat for the mayor was also built near the lake.
The buildings were completed in 1943 and received international acclaim following the 1943 ‘Brazil Builds’ exhibition, at the New York Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). Most of the buildings show Niemeyer's particular approach to the Corbusian language. In the casino, with its relatively rigid main façade, Niemeyer started to depart from the Corbusian principles and designed curved volumes outside the confinement of a rational grid. He also expanded upon Corbusier's idea of a promenade architecturale with his designs for the floating catwalk-like ramps which unfold the open vistas to the players.
The small restaurant (Casa do Baile), which is perhaps the least bourgeois building of the complex, is built on its own artificial island and comprises an approximately circular block from which a free-form marquee unravels, following the contour of the island. Although free form had been used even in Corbusier's and Mies's architecture, its application on an outdoors marquee was a new invention by Niemeyer. It blurs the inside-outside hierarchy at a previously unrealised level, though the theme was already being explored by most modernist architects. This application of free-form, together with the butterfly roof used at the Yacht Club and Kubitschek's house became extremely fashionable from then on.
The Saint Francis of Assisi church, however, is considered the masterpiece of the complex. When it was built reinforced concrete was being used in traditional ways, such as in pillar, beam and slab structures. Auguste Perret, in Casablanca and Robert Maillart in Zurich had experimented with the plastic freedom of concrete, taking advantage of the parabolic arch's geometry to build extremely thin shells. Niemeyer's shocking decision to utilize such an economic approach to construction, based on the inherent plasticity allowed by reinforced concrete to produce an aesthetic and spacial experience was revolutionary. According to Joaquim Cardoso, the unification of wall and roof into a single element marked a new anti-vertical monumentality. The formal exuberance of this church added to the strong integration between architecture and art (the church is covered by Azulejos by Portinari and tile murals by Paulo Werneck) led to the church being read as baroque. Though some more radical European purists condemned its formalism, the fact that the form's idea was directly linked to a logical structural reason meant that the building belonged to the 20th century, while refusing to break completely from the past as it was the tendency at the time.
Due to its importance in the history of Brazilian and World architecture, the church was the first listed modern building in Brazil. This fact did not influence the conservative church authorities of Minas Gerais, who refused to consecrate the church until 1959, in part because of its unorthodox form, in part because of the altar mural painted by Portinari. The mural depicts Saint Francis of Assisi as the savior of the ill, the poor and, most importantly, the sinner.
Pampulha, says Niemeyer, offered him the opportunity to 'challenge the monotony of contemporary architecture, the wave of misinterpreted functionalism that hindered it, and the dogmas of form and function that had emerged, counteracting the plastic freedom that reinforced concrete introduced. I was attracted by the curve – the liberated, sensual curve suggested by the possibilities of new technology yet so often recalled in venerable old baroque churches. […] I deliberately disregarded the right angle and rationalist architecture designed with ruler and square to boldly enter the world of curves and straight lines offered by reinforced concrete. […] This deliberate protest arose from the environment in which I lived, with its white beaches, its huge mountains, its old baroque churches, and the beautiful suntanned women.'
The experience also marked the first collaborations between Niemeyer and Roberto Burle Marx, considered the most important modern landscape architect. They would be partners in many projects in the next 10 years, a collaboration that would yield the best results in their careers.
The 1940s and 1950s 
With the success of Pampulha and the Brazil Builds exhibition, Niemeyer's fame was thrust to an international level. His architecture of the period further developed the brazilian style that the Saint Fracis of Assissi Church and, to a lesser extent (due to its primary corbusian language) the Ministry building, had pioneered. Works of this period shows the traditional modernist projectual method in which form follows function, but Niemeyer's (and in fact, other prominent Brazilian architects) handling of scale, proportion and program allowed him to resolve several complex problems with simple and intelligent plans. Stamo Papadaki in his monography on Niemeyer would also mention the spacial freedom which was characteristic of his simple and transparent architecture. The headquarters of the Banco Boavista, inaugurated in 1948 show such an approach. Dealing with a typical urban site, Niemeyer adopted creative solutions to enliven the otherwise monolithic high rise, thus challenging the predominant solidity which was the norm for bank buildings. The glazed south façade (with least insulation) reflects the 19th century Candelária Church, showing Niemeyer's sensitivity to the surroundings and older architecture. Such austere designs to high rises within urban grids can also be seen in the Edifício Montreal (1951-1954), Edifício Triângulo (1955), and the Edifício Sede do Banco Mineiro da Produção, exemplifying how Niemeyer prioritized urban unity for such program.
In 1947, at 40, Niemeyer returned to New York City to integrate the international team working on the design for the United Nations headquarters. Niemeyer's scheme 32 was approved by the Board of Design, but he eventually gave in to pressure by Le Corbusier, and together they submitted project 23/32 (developed with Bodiansky and Weissmann), which combined elements from Niemeyer's and Le Corbusier's schemes. Despite Le Corbusier’s insistence to remain involved, the conceptual design for the United Nations Headquarters (scheme 23/32), approved by the Board, was carried forward by the Director of Planning, Wallace Harrison, and Max Abramovitz, then a partnership. This stay in the United States also produced the project for the Burton G. Tremaine house, one of his boldest residential designs. Amidst exuberant gardens by Burle Marx, it featured an extremely opened plan designed for a total living experience next to the Pacific Ocean.
Niemeyer produced very few designs for the United States given that his affiliation to the Communist Party usually prevented him from obtaining a visa. This happened in 1946 when he was invited to teach at Yale University. However, due to his political views, his visa was denied. In 1953, at 46, Niemeyer was selected for the position of dean of the Harvard Graduate School of Design, but his political views were again a problematic issue.
In 1950 the first book about the architect's work to be published in the United States, "The Work of Oscar Niemeyer" by Stamo Papadaki was released. It was the first systematic study of his architecture, which significantly contributed to the promotion of his work abroad. It would be followed in 1956 by "Oscar Niemeyer: Works in Progress", by the same author. By this time, Niemeyer was already self-confident and following his own path in the international architectural scenario. Since 1948 Niemeyer had departed from the parabolic arches he had designed in Pampulha and went on to further explore his standard material, the concrete.
Niemeyer's formal creativity has been compared to that of sculptors. This prolific impulse found grounds on which to develop on in the 1950s, a time of intensive construction in Brazil and a period during which Niemeyer received numerous commissions. Yves Bruand  stressed that since Niemeyer's project for a theatre next to the Ministry of Education and Health building, in 1948, was inside the structures themselves that Niemeyer saw ground upon which he could develop his vocabulary. In 1950 he was asked to design São Paulo's Ibirapuera Park for the celebrations of the city's 400th anniversary. The plan, which consisted of several porticoed pavilions related together via a gigantic free form marquee, had to be simplified due to cost. The resulting buildings were less interesting individually, which meant that the volumetric dispositions became the dominant aesthetic experience, to be unraveled as one meanders under the marquee. For these buildings Niemeyer developed the V shaped pilotis, which went on to become extremely fashionable for a time. A variation on the same theme was the W shaped piloti which supports the Governador Juscelino Kubitschek housing complex (1951), two large building containing around 1,000 apartments. Its design was based on Niemeyer's scheme for the Quitandinha apartment hotel in Petrópolis designed one year earlier and never realised. At 33 stories high and over 400 meters long, it would contain 5,700 living unites together with communal services such as shops, schools etc., being Niemeyer's version of Corbusier's Unité d'Habitation.
A similar program was realized in the centre of São Paulo, the Copan apartment building (1953–66). This landmark represents a microcosmos of the diverse population of the city. Its horizontality, which is emphasized by the concrete brise-soleil, together with the fact that it was a residential building was an interesting approach to popular housing at the time, given that in the 1950s the suburbanization process had begun and the city centres were being occupied primarily by business and corporations, usually occupying vertical "masculine" buildings, as opposed to Niemeyer's "feminine" approach. In 1954 Niemeyer also designed the "Niemeyer apartment building" at the Praça da Liberdade, Belo Horizonte. The building's completely free form layout is reminiscent of Mies van der Rohe's 1922 glass skyscraper, although with a much more material feel than the airy German one. Also in 1954 as part of the same plaza Niemeyer built a library the (Biblioteca Pública Estadual).
During this period Niemeyer built several residences. Among them are a weekend house for his father, in Mendes (1949), which was built from a chicken coop, the Prudente de Morais Neto house, in Rio (1943–49), which was based on Niemeyer's original design for Kubitschek's house in Pampulha, a house for Gustavo Capanema (1947) (the minister who commissioned the Ministry of Education and Health building), the Leonel Miranda house (1952), featuring two spiral ramps which provide access to the butterfly-roofed first floor, lifted up on oblique piloti. These houses featured the same inclined façade used in the Tremaine design, which allowed good natural lighting. In 1954 he built the famous Cavanelas house, with its tent-like metallic roof which, with the help of Burle Marx's gardens, is perfectly adapted to the mountainous site. However, his residential (and free-form architecture) masterpiece is considered to be the 1953 Canoas House Niemeyer built for himself. The house is located at a sloped terrain overlooking the ocen from afar, and it is developed in two floors, the first of which is a transparent and flowing space under a free form roof, supported on thin metallic columns. The private living quarters is located on the floor below, which is much more traditionally divided. The design takes advantage of the uneven terrain so that the house seems not to disturb the landscape. Although the house is extremely well settled in its environment, it did not escape from criticism. Niemeyer recalled that Walter Gropius, who was visiting the country as a jury in the second Biennial exhibition in São Paulo, argued that the house could not be mass-produced, to which Niemeyer responded that the house was designed with himself in mind and at that particular site, not a general flat one. For Henry-Russell Hitchcock, the house at Canoas was Niemeyer's most extreme statement of his lyricism, putting forward rhythm and dance as the ultimate transgression of utility. However, Niemeyer must have realised that such organic architecture was indeed very specific and dependent on particular talents and an almost crafted quality in order to be successful.
Auto-critical revision: Depoimento 
In 1953 modern Brazilian architecture, which had been enormously praised since Brazil Builds, started to be the target of international criticism, mainly from strong rationalists. Niemeyer's architecture in particular was heavily criticised by Max Bill who had given an interview for Manchete Magazine. He attacked Niemeyer's use of free-form as purely decorative (as opposed to Reidy's Pedregulho housing), his use of mural panels and the individualistic character of his architecture which "is in risk of falling in a dangerous anti-social academicism". He even attacked Niemeyer's V piloti, judging their form as purely aesthetic.
Niemeyer's first attitude towards Bill's critique was one of denial, followed by an attack based on Bill's patronizing attitude which prevented him from realising the different social and economic realities of Brazil and European countries. Lucio Costa also stressed that Brazilian (and Niemeyer's) architecture was based on unskilled work which allowed for a crafted architecture based on concrete, expressing a tradition of church builders (Brazilians), as opposed to clock builders (Swiss).
Although it was badly received and to an extent a slight exaggeration, Bill's words were effective in bringing to attention the mediocre architecture that was being produced by less talented architects, who utilized Niemeyer's vocabulary in the decorative fashion Bill had criticised. Niemeyer himself admitted that for a certain period he had "handled too many commissions, executing them in a hurry, trusting the improvisational skills he believed to have". The Edifício Califórnia in São Paulo is an example. Usually neglected by its creator, it features the V piloti which had worked so well in isolated buildings, creating a different treatment to that space without the need for two separate structural system as Corbusier had done in Marseille. Its use on a typical urban fabric was indeed completely formalistic and even compromised the building's structural logic which required a myriad of different sized supports.
Berlin's 1957 Interbau exhibition gave Niemeyer not only the chance of building an example of his architecture in Germany, but also the chance to visit Europe for the first time, in 1954. The contact with the ancient monuments of the old world had a lasting impact on Niemeyer's views on architecture, which now he believed was completely dependent its aesthetic qualities. Together with his own realisations of how Brazilian architecture had been harmed by untalented architects and recent international criticism, this trip led Niemeyer to a process of revision of his own work, which he published as a text named Depoimento in his Módulo Magazine. He proposed a simplification of his architecture, discarding multiple elements such as brises, sculptural piloti, marquees etc. His architecture from then on would be a pure expression of structure as a representation of solid volumes. His design method would also change, prioritizing aesthetic impact over other programmatic functions, given that for him "when form creates beauty, it has in beauty itself its justification".
In 1955, at 48, Niemeyer designed the Museum of Modern Art of Caracas. The design of this museum was the material realization of his work revision. Meant to rise from the top of a cliff overlooking central Caracas, the museum had an inverted pyramid shape which dominated and overpowered the landscape. The opaque prismatic building had almost no connection to the outside through its walls, although its glass ceiling allowed specific quantities of natural light into the building. An electronic system would keep lighting conditions unchanged throughout the day as artificial light would complement it. The interior, however, was more familiar to Niemeyer's language, with cat-walk ramps linking the different levels and the mezzanine, a free-form slab hung from the ceiling beams.
This purity of form and architectural simplicity would culminate in his work in Brasília, where the aesthetic qualities of the buildings are expressed by their structural elements alone.
It was at the Canoas House that Juscelino Kubitschek visited Niemeyer one September morning of 1956, soon after he assumed the Brazilian presidency. While driving back to the city, the politician ‘eagerly’ spoke to the architect about his most audacious scheme: ‘I am going to build a new capital for this country and I want you to help me […] Oscar, this time we are going to build the capital of Brazil.’
Niemeyer organized a competition for the lay-out of Brasília, the new capital, and the winner was the project of his old master and great friend, Lúcio Costa. Niemeyer would design the buildings, Lucio the plan of the city.
In the space of a few months, Niemeyer designed a large number of residential, commercial and government buildings. Among them were the residence of the President (Palácio da Alvorada), the chamber of deputies, the National Congress of Brazil, the Cathedral of Brasília (a hyperboloid structure), diverse ministries, and residential buildings. Viewed from above, the city can be seen to have elements that repeat themselves in every building, giving it a formal unity.
Behind the construction of Brasília lay a monumental campaign to construct an entire city in the barren center of the country, hundreds of kilometers from any major city. The brainchild of Kubitschek, Niemeyer had as aims included stimulating the national industry, integrating the country's distant areas, populating inhospitable regions, and bringing progress to a region where only cattle ranching had a foothold. Niemeyer and Lúcio Costa used it to test new concepts of city planning: streets without transit, buildings floating off the ground supported by columns and allowing the space underneath to be free and integrated with nature.
The project also had a socialist ideology: in Brasília all the apartments would be owned by the government and rented to its employees. Brasília did not have "nobler" regions, meaning that top ministers and common laborers would share the same building. Of course, many of these concepts were ignored or changed by other presidents with different visions in later years. Brasília was designed, constructed, and inaugurated within four years. After its completion, Niemeyer was named chief of the college of architecture of the University of Brasília. In 1963, he became an honorary member of the American Institute of Architects in the United States; the same year, he received the Lenin Peace Prize from the USSR.
In 1964, at 57, after being invited by Abba Hushi, the mayor of Haifa, Israel, to plan the campus of the University of Haifa, he came back to a completely different Brazil. In March President João Goulart, who succeeded President Jânio Quadros in 1961, was deposed in a military coup. General Castello Branco assumed command of the country, which would remain a dictatorship until 1985.
Exile and projects overseas 
The leftist position of Niemeyer cost him much during the military dictatorship. His office was pillaged, the headquarters of the magazine he coordinated were destroyed, his projects mysteriously began to be refused and clients disappeared. In 1965, two hundred professors, Niemeyer among them, resigned from the University of Brasília, in protest against the government's treatment of universities. In the same year he traveled to France for an exhibition in the Louvre museum.
The following year, Niemeyer moved to Paris. Also in 1966, at 59, he travelled to the city of Tripoli, Lebanon to design the International Permanent Exhibition Centre. Despite completing construction, the start of the civil war in Lebanon prevented it from achieving its full utility.
He opened an office on the Champs-Élysées, and had customers in diverse countries, especially in Algeria where he designed the University of Science and Technology-Houari Boumediene. In Paris he created the headquarters of the French Communist Party, Place du Colonel Fabien, and in Italy that of the Mondadori publishing company. In Funchal on Madeira, a 19th-century hotel was removed to build a casino by Niemeyer.
While in Paris, Niemeyer began designing furniture which was produced by Mobilier International. He created an easy chair and ottoman composed of bent steel and leather in limited numbers for private clients. Later, in 1978, this chair and other designs including the "Rio" chaise-longue were produced in Brazil by the Japanese company Tendo, then Tendo Brasileira. The easy chairs and ottomans were made of bent wood and were placed in different Communist party headquarters around the world. Much like his architecture, Niemeyer's furniture designs were meant to evoke the beauty of Brazil, with curves mimicking the female form and the hills of Rio de Janeiro.
1980s to 2000 
The Brazilian dictatorship lasted until 1985. Under João Figueiredo's rule it softened and gradually turned into a democracy. At this time Niemeyer decided to return to his country. During that decade he made the Memorial Juscelino Kubitschek (1980), the Pantheon (Panteão da Pátria e da Liberdade Tancredo Neves Pantheon of the Fatherland and Freedom, 1985) and the Latin America Memorial (1987) (dubbed by The Independent of London to be "...an incoherent and vulgar construction"). The memorial sculpture represents a wounded hand, whose wound bleeds in the shape of Central and South America. In 1988, at 81, Niemeyer was awarded the Pritzker Architecture Prize, the most prestigious award in architecture. From 1992 to 1996, Niemeyer was the president of the Brazilian Communist Party (PCB). As a lifelong activist, Niemeyer was chosen as a powerful public figure who could be linked to the party at a time when it appeared to be in its death throes after the demise of the USSR. Although not active as a political leader, his image helped the party to survive through its crisis, after the 1992 split and to remain as a political force in the national scene, which eventually led to its reconstruction. He was replaced by Zuleide Faria de Mello in 1996. He designed at least two more buildings in Brasilia, the Memorial dos Povos Indigenas ("Memorial for the Indigenous People") and the Catedral Militar, Igreja de N.S. da Paz. In 1996, at the age of 89, he was responsible for the design of the Niterói Contemporary Art Museum in Niterói, a city next to Rio de Janeiro. The building is cantilevered out from a sheer rock face, offering a view of Guanabara Bay and the city of Rio de Janeiro.
21st century and death 
Niemeyer maintained his studio in Rio de Janeiro well into the 21st century. In 2002, the Oscar Niemeyer Museum complex was inaugurated in the city of Curitiba, Paraná. In 2003, at the 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 has never previously built in the UK, to design this temporary structure. He was still involved in diverse projects at the age of 100, mainly sculptures and readjustments of previous works. On Niemeyer's 100th birthday, Russia's president Vladimir Putin awarded him the Order of Friendship. Grateful for the Prince of Asturias Award of Arts received in 1989, he collaborated on the 25th anniversary of these awards with the donation to Asturias of the design of a cultural centre. The Oscar Niemeyer International Cultural Centre (also known in Spain as Centro Niemeyer), is located in Avilés and was inaugurated during in 2011. In January 2010, the Auditorium Oscar Niemeyer Ravello was officially opened in Ravello, Italy, on the Amalfi Coast. The Auditorium's concept design, drawings, model, sketches and text were made by Niemeyer in 2000 and completed under the guidance of his friend, Italian sociologist Domenico de Masi. The project was delayed for several years due to objections arising from its design, siting and clear difference from the local architecture; since its inauguration the project has experienced problems and, after one year was still closed.
After reaching the age of 100, Niemeyer spent several periods of time in hospital. In 2009, after a four-week period of hospitalisation for the treatment of gallstones and an intestinal tumour, he was quoted as saying that hospitalization is a "very lonely thing; I needed to keep busy, keep in touch with friends, maintain my rhythm of life." His daughter and only child, Anna Maria, died of emphysema in June 2012, aged 82. Niemeyer died of cardiorespiratory arrest on December 5, 2012 at the Hospital Samaritano in Rio de Janeiro, ten days before his 105th birthday. He had been hospitalised with a respiratory infection prior to his death. The BBC's obituary of Niemeyer noted that he "built some of the world's most striking buildings - monumental, curving concrete and glass structures which almost defy description", also acclaiming him as "one of the most innovative and daring architects of the last 60 years". The Washington Post described him as "widely regarded as the foremost Latin American architect of the last century".
Oscar Niemeyer Museum (NovoMuseu), Curitiba, Brazil
Nicolai Ouroussoff, the architecture critic of The New York Times, published an article questioning if Niemeyer's last work had been affected by Niemeyer's advanced age. Ouroussoff considers the "Niterói Contemporary Art Museum" to be of significantly lower quality than the architect's earlier works. Most notably, he argues that "the greatest threat to Mr. Niemeyer’s remarkable legacy may not be the developer’s bulldozer or insensitive city planners, but Mr. Niemeyer himself". He considers iconic works at "Esplanada dos Ministérios" to "have been marred by the architect’s own hand".
Political and religious views 
Niemeyer had a leftist political ideology. In 1945, many communist militants who were arrested under the Vargas' dictatorship were released, and Niemeyer, who at the time kept an office at Conde Lages (in Glória), decided to shelter some of them there. The experience allowed him to meet Luís Carlos Prestes, perhaps the most important leftist figure in Brazil. After several weeks, he gave up the house to Prestes and his supporters, who came to found the Brazilian Communist Party. Niemeyer then joined the Brazilian Communist Party in 1945 and went on to become its president in 1992. Niemeyer was a boy at the time of the Russian Revolution of 1917, and by the Second World War he had become a young idealist. During the military dictatorship of Brazil his office was raided and he was forced into exile in Europe. The Minister of Aeronautics of the time reportedly said that "the place for a communist architect is Moscow." He subsequently visited the Soviet Union, meeting with a number of the country's leaders, and in 1963 was awarded the Lenin Peace Prize. Niemeyer was also a close friend of Fidel Castro, who often visited his apartment and studio whilst in Brazil. Castro was once quoted as saying "Niemeyer and I are the last communists on this planet." Niemeyer was also regularly visited by Hugo Chávez.
Some critics have pointed out the fact that Niemeyer's architecture was often in opposition to his views. His first major work, Pampulha, had a bourgeois character, and Brasília was famous for its palaces. Niemeyer never saw architecture in the same way as Walter Gropius, who defended a rational and industrial architecture capable of moulding society into the new industrial era. Skeptical about architecture's ability to change the "unjust society", Niemeyer defended that such activism should be undertaken politically, and thus simplifying architecture for such purposes would be anti-modern (as it would be limiting constructive technology). Niemeyer says: "Our concern is political too – to change the world, ...Architecture is my work, and I've spent my whole life at a drawing board, but life is more important than architecture. What matters is to improve human beings."
Niemeyer was an atheist throughout his life, basing his beliefs both on the "injustices of this world" and on cosmological principles: "It's a fantastic Universe which humiliates us, and we can't make any use of it. But we are amazed by the power of the human mind … in the end, that's it—you are born, you die, that's it!". Such views 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. In the Cathedral of Brasília, he intended for the large glass windows "to connect the people to the sky, where their Lord's paradise is."
Personal life 
Niemeyer married Annita Baldo in 1928. They had one daughter, Anna Maria, in 1930 (she predeceased her father on June 6, 2012). Niemeyer subsequently had five grandchildren, thirteen great-grandchildren, and seven great-great-grandchildren. Niemeyer's wife Annita died in 2004, at the age of 93, after 76 years of marriage. In 2006, shortly before his 99th birthday, Niemeyer married for the second time, to his longtime secretary, Vera Lucia Cabreira. They married at his apartment in Rio de Janeiro's Ipanema district, a month after he had fractured his hip in a fall.
Oscar Niemeyer was a keen smoker of cigars, smoking more in later life. His architectural studio was a smoking zone.
Decorations and awards 
- Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (1949)
- Medal of the Order of Merit of Labour (Brazil, 1959)
- International Lenin Peace Prize (1963)
- Golden Lion of the Venice Biennale (1963)
- Honorary Member of the American Institute of Architects (1963)
- Honorary Member of the National Institute of Arts and Letters (USA, 1964)
- Premio Benito Juarez on the occasion of the centennial of the Mexican Revolution (1964)
- Médaille Joliot-Curie (1965)
- Piece for strings, brass, pianos by the Swiss avant-garde composer Hermann Meier dedicated to Niemeyer (1967)
- Knight of the Legion of Honour (Chevalier de la Légion d'Honneur) (France, 1970)
- Commander of the Order of Prince Henry (Portugal, 3 March 1975)
- Lorenzo il Magnifico Prize of the Accademia Internazionale Medicea (Florence, 1980)
- Commander of the Order of Arts and Letters (Ordre des Arts et des Lettres) (France, 1982)
- Honorary Member of the Academy of Arts of the USSR (1983)
- Pritzker Prize for Architecture (1988) (with Gordon Bunshaft)
- Prince of Asturias Award (1989)
- Honorary Doctor of the University of Brasília (1989)
- Chico Mendes Resistance Medal (1989)
- Gold Medal of the Colegio de Arquitectos de Barcelona (1990)
- Knight Commander of the Order of St. Gregory the Great, bestowed by Pope John Paul II (1990)
- Grand Cross of the Order of Saint James of the Sword (Portugal, 26 November 1994)
- Honorary doctorate from the University of São Paulo (1995)
- Doctor Honoris Causa from the Federal University of Minas Gerais (1995)
- Saurí Order, 1st class (Dominican Republic, 1996)
- Golden Lion at the Venice Biennale, VI International Architecture Exhibition (1996)
- Royal Gold Medal of the Royal Institute of British Architects (1998)
- Order of Solidarity (Cuba, 2001)
- Darcy Ribeiro Medal of Merit (State Board of Education of the State of Rio de Janeiro, 2001)
- Unesco Award in the category of Culture (2001)
- Grand Officer of the Order of Merit Teaching and Cultural Gabriela Mistral (Ministry of Education of Chile, 2001)
- "20th century architect" (Superior Council of the Institute of Architects of Brazil, 2001)
- Konex Award (Argentina, 2002)
- Praemium Imperiale (Japan, 2004)
- Austrian Decoration for Science and Art (2005)
- Patron of Brazilian architecture, declared by Law No. 11,117, of May 18, 2005
- Order of Cultural Merit (Brazil, 2007)
- Commander of the Legion of Honour (Commandeur de la Légion d'Honneur) (France, 2007)
- Order of Friendship (Russia, 2007)
- Medal Oscar Niemeyer's Communist Party Marxist-Leninist (2007)
- ALBA Arts Award (Venezuela, 2008), Cuba, Bolivia, Nicaragua 
- Order of Arts and Letters of Spain (6 November 2009)
- Doctor Honoris Causa of the Technical University of Lisbon (2009)
See also 
- Azure :: Niemeyer's Century
- Niemeyer, Gullar, F.(in Portuguese)
- Matthieu Salvaing, Oscar Niemeyer
- Niemeyer, Oscar, 2000, The Curves of Time: The Memoirs of Oscar Niemeyer (London: Phaidon), pp. 62 and 169-70
- William J. R. Curtis in "Oscar Niemeyer: architects and critics pay tribute", in The Guardian, December 7, 2012
- Joseph Ma. Botey, Oscar Niemeyer
- Zilah Quezado Deckker. Brazil Built: The Architecture of Modern Brazil
- Stamo Papadaki. The Work of Oscar Niemeyer
- Carlos Eduardo Comas. Niemeyer's Casino and the Misdeeds of Brazilian Architecture
- Danilo Matoso. Da Matéria à Invenção: As Obras de Oscar Niemeyer em Minas Gerais (1938-1954)
- Fabiano Lemes de Oliveira. Sigfried Giedion e o caso Brasileiro: uma aproximação hirtoriográfica., Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya. Retrieved December 8, 2012
- INEPAC. Guia de Bens Tombados
- Styliane Philippou. Oscar Niemeyer: Curves of Irreverence pp. 129
- Christopher Hall: "The Mark of a Master", in Architectural Digest, October 2006
- Publicação de The Work of Oscar Niemeyer. Retrieved December 8, 2012
- Yves Bruand. Arquitetura Contemporânea no Brasil
- Stamo Papadaki. The Work of Oscar Niemeyer pp.19
- Styliane Philippou. Challenging the Hierarchies of the City: Oscar Niemeyer’s Mid-Twentieth-Century Residential Buildings.. Retrieved December 8, 2012
- Alan Hess, Alan Weintraub. Oscar Niemeyer Houses
- Maciel. Oscar Niemeyer: A Vida é um Sopro
- Hitchcock, Henry-Russell. 1955. Latin American Architecture Since 1945 (New York Museum of Modern Art, Exhibition Catalogue)
- MAX BILL E A ARQUITETURA CONTEMPORÂNEA. Arquitetura e Engenharia. n. 26 . p.18
- Lucio Costa on Flavio Aquino's MAX BILL CRITICA A NOSSA MODERNA ARQUITETURA. 13th/06/1953
- NIEMEYER, Oscar. Depoimento. in MÓDULO, n. 9, p.3, 1958
- Alessandro José Castroviejo Ribeiro, Marcos José Carrilho e Paulo Sérgio Bárbaro Del Negro. Bolsistas: Mara Lucia da Silva e Marina Rodrigues Amado. Edifício e galeria Califórnia: o desenho e a cidade
- Danilo Matoso Macedo. Arquitetura em Transição: interpretação do trabalho de Oscar Niemeyer a partir de seu discurso – 1955-1962
- Oscar Niemeyer. Minha Experiência em Brasília
- Niemeyer, Oscar, 2000a, The Curves of Time: The Memoirs of Oscar Niemeyer (London: Phaidon), p. 70
- Biography Oscar Niemeyer, architect
- "In search of... Oscar Niemeyer in Brazil". The Independent (London). July 6, 2003. Retrieved May 20, 2010.
- Memorial dos Povos Indigenas
- Catedral Militar, Igreja de N.S. da Paz
- President Putin's executive order awarding Niemeyer the Order of Friendship
- Hooper, John (December 17, 2010). "Brussels demands answers as Italy's new €16m concert hall stays silent". The Guardian (London). Retrieved August 26, 2012.
- Brazilian architect Niemeyer released from hospital – News Track India. Published October 30, 2012. Retrieved December 6, 2012.
- "Reports: 101-yr-old Brazil architect back at work". The Guardian (London). November 21, 2009. Retrieved July 15, 2012.
- Menasce, Márcio (June 7, 2012). "Anna Maria Niemeyer (1929-2012) - Galerista e parceira do pai, Oscar". Folha de S. Paulo (in Portuguese). Retrieved December 8, 2012.
- Oscar Niemeyer, Brazilian architect, dies at 104. BBC. Published December 6, 2012. Retrieved December 6, 2012.
- Ouroussoff, Nicolai (2012). Oscar Niemeyer, Architect Who Gave Brasília Its Flair, Dies at 104. The New York Times. Published December 5, 2012. Retrieved December 6, 2012.
- Obituary: Oscar Niemeyer – BBC News (Latin America & Caribbean). Published December 6, 2012. Retrieved December 6, 2012.
- Bernstein, Adam (2012). Oscar Niemeyer dies; famed Brazilian architect was 104 – Washington Post Obituaries. Published December 6, 2012. Retrieved December 6, 2012.
- Nicolai Ouroussoff (December 26, 2007). "Even if His Own Work Isn’t Broken, a Brazilian Architect Fixes It". The New York Times. Retrieved December 26, 2007.
- Oscar Niemeyer Interview. Niemeyer e o PCB.
- Godfrey, Peter (April 18, 2010). "Swerve with verve: Oscar Niemeyer, the architect who eradicated the straight line". The Independent (London). Retrieved July 13, 2012.
- Glancey, Jonathan (2007). 'I pick up my pen. A building appears' – The Guardian. Published August 1, 2007. Retrieved December 6, 2012.
- Marcos Sá Corrêa. Oscar Niemeyer. Ediouro 2005
- name="Indy Swerve with verve"
- Walker, Clive (November 20, 2006). "Niemeyer finds love at 98 with marriage to 60-year-old secretary". The Architects' Journal. Retrieved July 13, 2012.
- OSCAR NIEMEYER – ME design. Published July 8, 2008. Retrieved December 6, 2012.
- Emery, Marc (1983). Furniture by Architects. New York: Harry N. Abrams.
- Niemeyer, Oscar (1983). The Curves of Time: The Memoirs of Oscar Niemeyer. London: Phaidon.
- A Vida É Um Sopro ("Life Is a Breath Of Air") (2007). Documentary directed by Fabiano Maciel.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Oscar Niemeyer|
- Official website
- Brasilia's Giga Panoramas Exhibit
- May 2006 Interview with Niemeyer, age 98, in Metropolis Magazine
- Pritzker Prize 1988
- Niemeyer's Brasilia: A Photographic Tribute (2009)