A Year Without Oscar

A Year Without Oscar

It's been exactly one year since the world first mourned the passing of a great master of 20th century architecture: Oscar Niemeyer. 

After 104 years of life, the renowned architect left a profound legacy. His works - known for their impressive curves, embrace of light, and profound relationship to their surroundings - made him an icon. Not just in Brazil, but the world.


Oscar Niemeyer was born in Rio de Janeiro in 1907. He studied at the Beaux Arts School in Brazil, where he graduated as an architect in 1934. He first worked in the offices of Lucio Costa and Carlos Leão; Niemeyer would subsequently work with Costa many times throughout his life.

In 1945, he joined the Communist Party of Brazil. In 1966, two hears after the military coup, Niemeyer opted to self-exile to France, where he also worked as an architect.

He returned to Brazil in 1985, when the military government ended, and lived there until his death.

Museu de Arte Contemporânea de Niterói – Niterói – RJ. Image © Fabiano Caetano

During his life, he received countless recognitions and awards, including the Pritzker Prize in 1988.

Palácio da Alvorada. Image Courtesy of ON

In the development of his works, it's possible to observe the characteristics that would repeat throughout his long career. Each of Oscar Niemeyer's works displays a strong relationship with its site, adapting to its surroundings. 

The use of pilotis and concrete also became distinctive Niemeyer markers. 

One of the signature characteristics of his work - and that which perhaps had the greatest influence on modern architecture - was Niemeyer's use of the curve, particularly in his concrete structures. These designs broke ground, expanding our understanding of the formal and compositional potential of concrete.  

Igreja da Pampulha. Image © Bruno do Vale

In 1940 he met with the then-mayor of Belo Horizonte, Juscelino Kubitschek, with whom he would collaborate on the creation of his masterwork: Brasilia.


© Marcel Gautherot

The capital of Brazil, founded in 1960, began to be developed in 1950, whenJuscelino Kubitschek was elected President.

Declared a UNESCO Heritage Site in 1987, Brasilia was the first modern city to receive this honor, due to its singular architecture and radical urban planning (designed by both Niemeyer and Costa).

Some of Niemeyer's works in Brasilia are:

Alvorada Palace
Planalto Palace
National Congress of Brazil
Cathedral of Brasilia
Itamaraty Palace

Catedral de Brasília. Image © Gabriel Tavares, via Flickr

Niemeyer also left an important built legacy in other cities: 

Edifício Copan, São Paulo - SP. Image © Dornicke - via wikimedia commons

Niterói Contemporary Art Museum – Niterói – BRAZIL

United Nations Headquarters - New York City - USA

Niemeyer Center - Aviles - SPAIN

Pampulha Complex – Belo Horizonte – BRAZIL

Headquarters of the French Communist Party – Paris - FRANCE

Sambadrome – Rio de Janeiro – BRAZIL

Ciccillo Matarazzo Pavilion - Parque de Ibirapuera - BRAZIL

useu de Arte Contemporânea de Niterói – Niterói – RJ. Image © Rodrigo Soldon
Sambódromo da Marques de Sapucai – Rio de Janeiro – RJ. Image
Sede do partido Comunista Francês – Paris - França. Image © Rodrigo Mathias

Read more about Niemeyer here.

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About this author
Cite: Baratto, Romullo. "A Year Without Oscar" [Dois anos sem Oscar Niemeyer] 05 Dec 2013. ArchDaily. (Trans. Quirk, Vanessa) Accessed . <https://www.archdaily.com/454867/a-year-without-oscar> ISSN 0719-8884

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