Oscar Niemeyer: A Legend Of Modernism

by | 23. Aug 2012


Niemeier-Photo1.jpgPhoto: Michel Moch

A concise, exciting and beautifully illustrated portrayal – a new encounter with the Grand Old Man of Brazilian architecture.

The Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer counts as one of the great architects of the 20th century. He became well known for his buildings in Brasilia where he  succeeded in devising forms for buildings destined to represent the state that remain equally poignant today. His architecture combines sculptural monumentality with classic order. In this Deutsches Architektur Museum publication noted authors analyze important and topical aspects of Niemeyer’s works.

Today Niemeyer is 96 years old and a living legend. He has constructed more buildings than almost any other modern architect and has not stopped yet. In an essay “My Architecture” Niemeyer talks about his own work.

Niemeyer-photo-2.jpg Photo: Anna-Julia Schmied

“I divide my architecture up into five different periods; first Pampulha, then from Panpulha to Brasilia, after that Brasilia, followed by my work overseas, and, last but not least, my most recent plans. I have never commented on the influence of events in the world of architecture on these periods or on my thinking as an architect.  Today, looking back at my work, I have a better understanding of why, in all five phases, it undeniably contains an element of rebellion”.

Niemeyer-Photo-3.jpgCasa do Baile, Dancehall and Restaurant (1940)
Pampulha, Brazil

“It all began with my first thoughts on Panpulha.  I consciously ignored the highly praised right angle and the rational architecture of T-squares and triangles in order to wholeheartedly enter the world of curves and new shapes made possible by the introduction of concrete into the building process”.

Niemeyer-Photo-4.jpg Photo: Michel Moch
Interior of Biennial Pavilion (1951)
Ibirapuera Park
Säo Paulo, Brazil

“Some of my best buildings are outside of Brazil.  With the Headquarters of the French Communist Party I showed how important it is to maintain a harmonious relationship between volume and open space”.

Niemeyer-Photo-5.jpg Photo: Michel Moch
PCF Headquarters (1965)
Office block and dome of the Assembly Hall
Paris, France

“In Algeria, an impressive edifice, which even overcame the inadequacies of local building methods, was created by large-scale open spaces, adopting 50 meter long spans, and using vaulting which is 25 meters across.”

Niemeyer-Photo-6.jpg Photo: Michel Moch
University of Constantine (1968)

Niemeyer-Photo-7.jpg Auditorium sketch
University of Constantine (1968)

“When planning the government buildings for Brasilia I decided they should be characterized by their own structures within the prescribed shapes.  In this way, the smaller details of rationalist architecture would vanish in the face of the overpowering shapes of the new edifices. I tried to push the potential of concrete to its limits, especially at the load-bearing points which I wanted to be as delicate as possible so that it would seem as if the palaces barely touched the ground”.

Niemeyer-Photo-8.jpgPhoto: Michel Moch
Alvorada Palace and Chapel (1957)

Niemeyer-Photo-9.jpg Photo: Michel Moch
Tancredo Neves Pantheon of Liberation and Democracy (1985)

In his essay “Oscar Niemeyer and landscape” Paul Andreas says we must understand Niemeyer’s buildings as an independent architectural construct; that he has always endeavored to establish links to the place and landscape, to incorporate both in such a way that they can be visually experienced.  

Niemeyer-Photo-10.jpg Photo: Michel Moch
Museum of Contemporary Art (1991)
Niteroi, Brazil

The immense monumental form of the Museum of Contemporary Art, that from a distance seems to be a sculpture in its own right, quite distinct from the rocks on which it stands, corresponds, across a broad radius with the surrounding countryside