Niemeyer, icon of architecture, dies

“It’s important that the architect does what he likes to do, and not what others would like him to do. This is the path I follow.”


The legendary Oscar Niemeyer has died, just shy of his 105th birthday. Even in the last few days of his life, the Brazilian architect who designed his country’s futurist capital kept working from his Copacabana beach penthouse apartment in Rio de Janeiro. He was considered a national icon.

Niemeyer’s legacy is heavily associated with his communist views. He was an enemy of Brazil’s military dictatorship from the nineteen-sixties to the eighties. Starting in the 1930s, his style evolved toward rounded buildings. His work added sensuality to modernism and fired a global enthusiasm, though his politics meant there were stretches when he was marginalised.

But, he said: “The ultimate task of the architect is to dream…

“Women’s curves have something of my architecture, like the curves of mountains. Whatever I’ve seen that interested me goes into it…

“Curves make up the entire Universe, Einstein’s curved Universe.”

Some called him a “sculptor of monuments”.

Fellow Brazilian architect Mauro Almada said:

“Niemeyer’s imitators, none of them ever came close to him, because his architecture is impossible to copy. It is an extremely personal architecture. It didn’t create a school.”

Niemeyer had kidney and stomach trouble and then developed a lung infection this week which caused his death, the hospital said.

He was an atheist, though he built churches and mosques, winning the prestigious Pritzker Prize for Brasilia cathedral.

He was also a bohemian idealist whose first marriage lasted for 76 years, and which he followed by a second.

He said: “I’ve spent my whole life at a drawing board, but life is more important than architecture.”

He also spoke of a “fantastic Universe which humiliates us… in the end, you are born, you die, that’s it!”

Though Niemeyer fit in plenty in between.

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Palacio da Alvorada - Brasilia (Brazil), opening in 1958

Copan - Sao Paulo (Brazil), opening in 1966

Metropolitan Cathedral - Brasilia (Brazil), opening in 1970

The Arnoldo Mondadori S.p.A. headquarters - Milan (Italy), opening in 1975

National Congress - Brasilia (Brazil), opening in 1987

Contemporary Art Museum (MAC) - Niteroi (Brazil), opening in 1996

Niemeyer Center - Avilies (Spain), opening in 2011

Niemeyer Museum - Curitiba (Brazil), opening in 2003

Selection of Oscar Niemeyer’s buildings

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