Spotlight: Oscar Niemeyer

Cathedral of Brasília. Image © Gonzalo Viramonte

Oscar Ribeiro de Almeida Niemeyer Soares Filho, or simply Oscar Niemeyer, (December 15, 1907 – December 5, 2012) was one of the greatest architects in Brazil's history, and one of the greats of the global modernist movement. After his death in 2012, Niemeyer left the world more than five hundred works scattered throughout the Americas, Africa, and Europe.

Spotlight: Oscar Niemeyer - More Images+ 20

Courtesy of ON

Niemeyer attended the National School of Fine Arts in Rio de Janeiro in 1929, graduating in 1934. He began working with the influential Brazilian architect and urban planner Lúcio Costa in 1932, a professional partnership that would last decades and result in some of the most important works in the history of modern architecture.

Ministry of Education and Health Building, Rio de Janeiro. Image © Marina de Holanda

In 1936, Niemeyer joined a team of Le Corbusier, Lúcio Costa, Affonso Eduardo Reidy, Carlos Leon, Jorge Moreira and Ernani Vasconcellos to design the headquarters of the Ministry of Education and Health, located in the center of Rio de Janeiro. Aged just 29 years, Niemeyer was assigned as a draftsman for Le Corbusier, however after Le Corbusier left Brazil the young prodigy made changes to the design that greatly impressed Lúcio Costa—so much so that by 1939 he appointed Niemeyer as the project's lead architect. The building, a horizontal bar that intersects a vertical blade, was completed in 1945 and became the cornerstone of modern Brazilian architecture, attracting international attention.

National Congress of Brazil. Image © Andrew Prokos

In 1956, then-president Juscelino Kubitshek invited Niemeyer to participate in the largest urban and architectural work of the country's history: the construction of the new capital in the middle of the savannah, Brasília.

Church of Saint Francis of Assisi, Pampulha. Image © Flickr user Matthias Ripp licensed under CC BY 2.0

Lúcio Costa, the masterplanner of the new capital, said in an interview with Ana Rosa de Oliveira in 1992: "when Juscelino became president, he had an architect in his pocket, Oscar Niemeyer. He was a pre-selected architect. This means that the competition was only for the city's urban planning, the masterplan." The collaboration of Costa and Niemeyer gave the world something entirely new: the first major city designed entirely on the basis of modernist principles of functionality and aesthetics.

Niterói Contemporary Art Museum. Image © Gili Merin

Oscar Niemeyer was never a scholar, never interested in theories, jargon, or clichés. His freeform, flowing lines were always accurate. Though he had strongly held political views, unlike some other Modernists they were not especially apparent in his work. His goal was simple and innocent: give beauty to the world. And he did.

See the thumbnails below for all of Oscar Niemeyer's works featured here on ArchDaily, and the links below those for our articles on the great architect.

Spotlight: Oscar Niemeyer - More Images+ 20

AD Interviews: Oscar Niemeyer

Infographic: Oscar Niemeyer's timeline

Oscar Niemeyer, Brazil's Modernist Icon, Dies

Tribute to Oscar Niemeyer by Norman Foster

Oscar Niemeyer, My Dear Old Friend

Quotes from Oscar Niemeyer (1907-2012)

A Year Without Oscar

Norman Foster on Meeting Niemeyer

Gallery: Oscar Niemeyer's Cathedral of Brasília Photographed by Gonzalo Viramonte

Oscar Niemeyer Through the Lens of Haruo Mikami

Video: Niemeyer Center / Oscar Niemeyer

Oscar Niemeyer's "Favorite Project in Europe" Captured in Spectacular Photo Set by Karina Castro

See Oscar Niemeyer's Unfinished Architecture for Lebanon's International Fair Grounds

Explore Oscar Niemeyer's Unbuilt House in Israel with This 3D Model

Louis Vuitton's Cruise '17 Collection Unveiled at Niemeyer's Niterói Contemporary Art Museum

One of Oscar Niemeyer's Final Designs Will Be Completed Posthumously in Germany

Petterson Dantas' Illustrations Are a Colorful Ode to Oscar Niemeyer

About this author
Cite: Romullo Baratto. "Spotlight: Oscar Niemeyer" 15 Dec 2019. ArchDaily. Accessed . <> ISSN 0719-8884

Cathedral of Brasília. Image © Gonzalo Viramonte


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